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INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY and...the connection with the shootings at the Windhoek Namibia Old Location on 10 December 1959


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International Human Rights Day and...

the connection with the shootings at the Windhoek Old Location on 10 December 1959

The plans to build a 'New Location' some kilometres north of the city to where the non-white population would be relocated was met with an amount of bewilderment and dismay by the residents. The social structure that many had been born into promised to be doomed as the New Location was planned to neatly place each tribal group in their own area. Life long neighbours and friends would find themselves transplanted into an environment where they would experience enforced segregation, higher rentals, less facilities, less freedom, and coupled with a policy that made no provision for freehold ownership of land. The people began to unite in their opposition to the draconian measures being imposed upon them by a power that was seen to be both foreign and abhorrent in its' policies.


On 29 October a meeting was held of the Windhoek Town Council's "Non-European Advisory Board". It comprised of six white members appointed by the Municipality and six Africans who were said to represent the residents of the Location. The latter strongly rejected the planned relocation to the New Location and one African member, N, Mbaeva stated, "This apartheid that you are coming here to impose, you are trying to impose on a place that does not belong to you. Do you not know that this place belongs to us and to us alone? We are people who are in our own land, and it is not necessary for us to go to another place. We will not condone apartheid. If we move to this place we are condoning apartheid." Another of the African members closed his statement with the words, "We will not move."


Some weeks of uncertainty followed during which there was an escalation of repressive actions by the South African authorities along with ongoing harassment of the residents of the Old Location. The brewing of traditional African beer had been a source of income for many of the women of the community and the Windhoek Municipality now deemed this to be illegal and imposed new regulations that all beer should be purchased from the beer hall that was operated by the municipality. These actions were met with protest by the women who's very livelihood had been taken away. On 8 December several hundred women marched in protest to South West Africa House in Leutwein Street, the residence of the South African Administrator of the country, who refused them an interview. In reply to this action the residents returned to the Old Location whereupon they began a boycott of all municipality facilities.


Records indicate that the boycott was conducted in a non violent manner with people gathering in groups to stand outside of the municipality beer hall and offices. The boycott continued peacefully until the evening of 10 December when gathering crowds were told to disperse and ignored the instruction. Eye witnesses reported that at about 21h30 a black sedan car arrived at the Municipal offices that displayed the number plate A1, being that of the vehicle of the Administrator, Mr. Daan Viljoen who was sitting in the rear seat. A policeman got out of the car carrying a rifle having a fixed bayonet and fired the first shot, killing Willem Cloete. Eye-witness reports tell of how a local resident, Mr. Bernhardt Gutsche came out of his house and on seeing Willem Cloete dying went to offer assistance, but was also shot and wounded and then shot again to ensure that he was killed. Other police members then also began to shoot into the crowd. One woman who had not born child until she was forty years old, discovered that her only child, a son, had been shot dead. In her anger she ran screaming and poured a gallon can of petrol onto the car of Mr. de Wet, the white Superintendent of the Old Location, whereupon she was shot dead instantly. Her name was Anna Kakurukaze Mungunda - now recognized and honoured at the Heroes' Acre as one of Namibia's great heroines.


The official South African report shows that the Police force, on that fateful evening, consisted of: a Deputy Commissioner of Police, a lieutenant, 6 sergeants, 22 European constables, and 6 Non-European constables. They were armed with 2 x Sten Guns, 2 x military 303 rifles and 17 revolvers. It is claimed that tear-gas canisters were also used in an attempt to disperse the crowd prior to the shootings which lasted for some two hours after which time the South African Defence Force arrived on sight with armoured cars. The following cover-up of the facts of that tragic evening by the South African Apartheid Regime, coupled with the suppression of the history of the indigenous Namibian peoples has made it difficult for later researchers to be able to establish to full satisfaction the exact numbers of unarmed and civilian Namibians who were either murdered or wounded in the massacre. The following list is of those known to date.


  Comrades Killed 

  Comrades Wounded 

  1. Cloete - Willem
  2. Haseb - Asser
  3. Haimbondi - Johannes
  4. Kahiko - Bartholomew
  5. Kasuto - Hugo
  6. Kuiri - Rheinhardt
  7. Kutsche (Gutsche?) - Bernhard
  8. Mungunda - Anna
  9. Tjombe - Zacheus
  10. Uripa - Zacheus




  1. Cloete - Karl
  2. Davids - Eva
  3. Gariseb - Jonathon
  4. Goseb - Paul
  5. Hangero- Paul
  6. Hoveka - Simon
  7. Kahipura - Ismael
  8. Kaimu - Adolf
  9. Kariange - Albanus
  10. Karuuombe Dankie
  11. Kashipuku Dominicus
  12. Katjirumbu - Daniel
  13. Katjiuongua - Albert
14. Lumingo - Pius

15. Matundu -Methusala

16. Murangi - Nathaniel

17. Narases - Martha

18. Ndjiharine - Theophilus

19. Nuhune - Cephas

20. Siririka - Niklaas

21. Tjatindi - Aaron

22. Tjaverua - Anton

23. Tjirupa - Seth

24. Ve tiani - Langman

25. Veseevete - Usiel


The Aftermath:

The dawning of 11 December revealed, to some extent, the previous nights horrors. The corpses of the murdered having already been removed under darkness to the local hospital by the authorities, and now Municipal lorries each with its team of workers were seen to be driving through the streets, tidying up. One lorry was "full of shoes" that had been left behind by the people fleeing from the ongoing hail of bullets and carnage. Many of the residents had fled the Old Location to find sanctuary in churches and mission stations, some simply took to the hills.


On 11 December the Municipality held a special meeting to discuss the events of the previous evening, but the only matters dealt with were, "adequate compensation for the officials whose vehicles had suffered damage, and how compensation could be arranged in incidents of a like nature which might occur in the future." No mention was made of the residents of the Old Location: of those who died, suffered damage to themselves and their property; nor was anything said of the police violence.


The funeral of the victims was held on 13 December at the Old Location Cemetery where only relatives of those killed were allowed into the cemetery under the control of a heavy police presence.


On 14 December 1959 the South African President and chief architect of the Apartheid Regime Dr. H.F. Verwoerd made the gesture called for an official enquiry into the incident. Not surprisingly, the South African report exonerated the guilty parties from any responsibility for the massacre.


Within a few short weeks Sam Nujoma was summoned by the Herero Chief Hosea Kutako where he received the Chief's blessing and was entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the question of Namibia's independence from South Africa to The United Nations Organisation in New York. He was instructed by Chief Kutako not to return until he had achieved this objective.


The shock of the wanton killings dealt a devastating blow to the community of the Old Location and by 16 December the first residents began to make the painful move to Katutura (in the Herero language meaning, "A place where we do not stay"). The last were to leave in 1964 and within a few short months there was hardly a trace that people had ever lived there. The land on which the Old Location had stood had been designated for  a future 'white housing' development 'and the old 'cemetery for non-whites' was left to deteriorate. By the mid seventies it was beginning to be overgrown by bush and was barely recognizable. As the years went by the South African Apartheid policy of separation of the race groups developed a culture whereby whites, not being allowed onto black townships, began to know less and less about the conditions under which the black population lived.


  International Human Rights Day Commemoration Service.

10 December 1990 witnessed the newly independent Namibia's first commemoration of International Human Rights Day which was held at the cemetery of the Windhoek Old Location. Namibians who had been present on that terrible night, half a lifetime ago, related the horrors that they witnessed and that had stayed so clear in their minds. The emotions were so great that many wept openly, and one man related, "when I saw the body of Mrs. Mungundu, she looked beautiful in death. It motivated me to go forward in the liberation struggle." That man was Sam Nujoma - The man who, for so long was the protagonist of the final liberation struggle and was now speaking as the first elected President of a free and independent Namibia. The man who, over thirty years before, had been instructed and blessed by Chief Hosea Kutako to leave Namibia and to bring to the attention of the world the plight of the Namibian people, and to lobby the member countries of the United Nations Organization for the Independence of the Namibia. The man who, who had had to lead the Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia into conflict, and had only returned to his homeland once he had achieved the objective of the sacred mission with which he had been entrusted.



Memorial Grave to those murdered on 10 December 1959 at the Windhoek Old Location Cemetary



The above memorial can be seen at the Old Location Cemetery which stands on the north side of Hochland Road and opposite to the junction with Jordan Street, Pioneers Park.

This page was produced with the cooperation of:

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting

The Namibia National Heritage Council

This page is downloadable in PDF format.

Text and Photographs by Keith Irwin

Acknowledgements: Booklet 'An Investigation Of The Shooting At The Old Location On 10 December 1959'

A Publication of the University of Namibia (1990) - Private Bag 13301, Windhoek, Namibia

By:  Milly Jafta, Nicky Kautja, Magda Oliphant, Kapofi Shipanga, Dawn Ridgway (The community researches itself) edited by B. Lau.

Articles of Associated Interest:

Heroes' Acre Introduction

Internat. Human Rights Day

National Flag & Symbols

Namibia's Constitution

Heroes' Acre Inauguration

Namibia's Heroes' & Heroines

Profile of Sam Nujoma

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