OKAHANDJA

Okahandja is a small town situated about 70 kilometres north of Windhoek and holds a quaint atmosphere stooped in history and tradition. Due to the amount of underground water and the resulting indigenous and exotic trees that thrive here, Okahandja is often referred to as „the garden town of Namibia“. The word 'Okahandja' is derived from Otjiherero (a local tribal language) and means "The place where two rivers flow into each other to form one wide one." Okahandja is historically very important and revolves mostly around the Herero and Nama tribal people. Chiefs Tjamuaha and Kahitjene came to Okahandja in 1800 to establish themselves along the dry riverbed of the Okahandja River (Namibia’s shortest river). Chief Tjamuaha was the father of Chief Maherero, who was known to be the great leader of the Herero people. In 1827 the first German missionary, Heinrich Schmelen, came to Okahandja in the hope of reverting the herero tribes to Christian faith and called the area “Schelen’s Verwachtung“ or „Schmelen’s hope”. He did convert some of the tribes, and after his departure, another two missionaries were sent to Okahandja by the Rhenish mission society in 1844, the influential and historically well-known Hugo Hahn and Heinrich Kleinschmidt. They did not not build their mission directly on Okahandja ground but rather at „Otjikango“ – the place of the hot springs, an area we nowadays know as Gross Barmen. All went peacefully in Okahandja, except that the Nama nation and the Herero nation were on a continuous war path, and on the 23rd of August 1850 the „blood bath of Okahandja“ took place between the two tribes where a many lives were lost on both sides. The site, nowadays known as „Moordkoppie“ or „murder hill“ is situated behind the town's school next to the Windhoek – Karibib B2 main road. Jonker Afrikaner moved to Okahandja in 1854, where he later died. Chief Tjamuaha also died in the same year and advised his son, Maherero that he should stand up against the Nama-speaking people and overpower them, this leading to the beginning of a seven year war. Chief Maherero conquered the Nama people and they in turn turned to the German colonial army (at that stage still very small in numbers) for protection, which was also awarded to them – at this stage the German forces were still based in Otjimbingwe. On the 12th of January 1904, the Herero speaking people rebelled against the German occupation, but were chased off into the Kaiser kop area, East of Okahandja. In 1870 the first school was established by Reinishmissionaries. Many other businesses flourished in Okahandja, including Wecke & Voigts which was establish in 1892, unfortunately the original building burnt down and has been replaced with a smaller shop which is situated on the original site on the corner of Bahnhof stasse and Voortrekker road. On 25 June 1894 Leutwein established a military station in Okahandja, this date was later regarded as the date on which Okahandja was officially established. Soon afterwards in 1895 the first postal services at Okahandja were established, camels were used to transport the mail. The first post office at Okahandja was established in 1896 and still stands in the main street. The Augustineum School was reopened at Okahandja on 9 November 1905, in this very same school many of our Cabinet Ministers were educated. The Tobacco Research Station was established between 1905 and 1907. Dr Fock became Okahandja's first mayor in 1906 and up to today a street is named after him, next to the Horse Riding Club where his original house still stands. Visitors to the Riding Club will be treated to some historical photos of the house, as well as of other homes and businesses in the early 1900's. The first railway station, as well as a telephone connection, were established in 1909, bringing further development to the then small town. A public pool was established in 1932, but is unfortunately no longer used due to water restrictions. The first big factory in Okahandja was the 'South West Creamery Ltd' and was established in 1948. 'African Meat Canners' was established in 1962 and the present Municipal buildings were constructed in 1952. Due to the historical fact that two Herero Chiefs, Kahimunua and Nikodemus, were shot by the Germans in Gobabis and were buried at the Bantu Kirche, off Martin Nieb street, Okahandja, every year towards the end of August , on what is now called Maherero Day, thousand of Herero's come to Okahandja to pay tribute to their fallen heroes. They make a grand procession of brightly colored traditional dresses, military outfits and prancing horses. They proceed along a route which starts at the grave sites and moves on to a site on the other side of the main Windhoek road, where a great tribal banquet and celebration is held.

Herero Day

Herero Day (also known as Red Flag Day) is celebrated every year on a Sunday closest to August 23 by thousands of Herero people. They commemorate their deceased chieftains, but mainly the reburial of their chief Samuel Maharero, who’s mortal remains were returned to Okahandja on this day from Bechuanaland (nowadays Botswana). After the 1904 war at the Waterberg against the German forces, thousands of Herero’s were forced to flee through the Kalahari Desert. Maharero was one of these, he never returned to Namibia and died in Botswana. The main event of the 3-day gathering is a procession to several graves of Herero chiefs, followed by a church service. The men wear military-style phantasy uniforms, the women wear the traditional dress of the Herero, a voluminous skirt of many layers with a "horned hat", headgear consisting of two wide points.