GOBABIS

Gobabis is a small town situated between Windhoek (app 205km) and the Mamuno border post of Botswana. Like many other small towns in Namibia, Gobabis developed around a mission station that was established in 1856 by Friederich Eggert of the Rhenish Missionary Society. The district of Gobabis was officially proclaimed by the German authorities in February 1894 and in June the following year, Gobabis was occupied by a German garrison. While the military fort, built in 1896/7, has long since disappeared, one of the few buildings dating back to that era is the field hospital, or Lazarette, which has been declared a national monument and which can be viewed in the main street of the town. In pre-colonial times the area was used by elephants as a migration route, and in the indigenous language the name Gobabis means “drinking place of the elephant”. Gobabis lies in one of the most lucrative farming area of Namibia and is well-known for its large cattle ranches. As you arrive in the town, also known by the locals as “Little Texas”, the first thing you see is the statue of a huge Brahman bull with the inviting words “welcome to cattle country”. Due to the availability of water and large grazing tracts, the area was one of the main dwelling sites of the Herero tribe in pre-colonial times. The Herero still today see cattle as a form of wealth and in the latter half of the 1800s and the early 1900s several conflicts flared up between the Mbanderu and the Khauas Khoikhoi, the latter being known as aggressive cattle thieves who sold these in Walvis Bay, from where they were shipped to South Africa. The area was also one of the most popular with the South African Boers once the German colonial force (Schutztruppe) lost the war against South Africa in 1915. Most German farmers (most being soldiers who fought in the Schutztruppe and later acquired land) in the Gobabis area were deported back to Germany uncompensated and lost their farms to the incoming South Africans, which explains why today most of the farms are owned by Afrikaans speaking farmers. As the town lies so close to the Botswana border as well as the Kalahari Desert, which in turn forms a part of Hereroland, it is one of the most culture diverse towns in Namibia. The main cultural representations are the Herero and the Namas, while Bushmen, Ovambo, Damara, Tswana (a Botswana tribe) as well as whites and Rehoboth Basters abound in and around the town. The citizens of the town are very Christian, something which is clearly seen when visiting Gobabis, as in each street corner a church is found. According to Father Dohren of the Roman Catholic Mission at Gobabis, the first native huts to be erected in what could be described as the first location (non-white area) at the town of Gobabis were built near Spitskop around 1910. These huts were subsequently demolished and a new native area was established near the creamery, but the area was cleared in 1920 and the residents moved to a new area south of the town. When that area, in turn, was required as a landing site for private airplanes, the location for Blacks was moved to a new site approximately 2,5 km south of the town, where it is still to be found today. Certain provisions of the Urban Areas Proclamation (Proc. 34 of 1924) were applied to the Gobabis urban area by three government notices in 1935, and location regulations were promulgated on 2 July the same year. Special compounds were established for contract workers employed by the municipality, the railways and the creamery, while the location itself was subdivided along ethnic lines. An Advisory Board consisting of six residents was appointed in 1949. The old location eventually made way for Epako ("narrow defile", place at which the rivers runs between the koppies), which was established north-east of the town at a later stage. A separate township for Coloureds, known as Nossobville, was also established; this township had 415 inhabitants in 1973. Köhler is the only published source to provide employment statistics for the residents of the black location. According to him, most were employed by various government departments, the municipality, and private businesses and as domestic servants. Furthermore, there were three general dealers, one butcher, one café owner, four shoemakers and a few firewood dealers in the location in 1956. A small number of stock (which declined over the years) was kept on the commonage. In present day Gobabis does not belong to one of the accommodated stop-overs for tourists, but rather as a fuel and food supplying town to and from Botswana. Since the completion of the Trans Kalahari Highway, a modern tar road which connects the harbor town of Walvis Bay with Johannesburg via Botswana, the town is also the pit-stop for a multitude of trucks traveling between Namibia and South Africa. Also tourists and locals very often use this road to reach South Africa, as the drive through Botswana to Johannesburg saves a distance of over 500km compared to the old route via Upington.