Thursday, 2 March 2017

Black day in Africa! Robbery!

ALLIE: DAY 16: Friday, the 2nd of March

A black Day in Africa!
I am still shaking from today’s horrible experience but writing this down may help me to calm down and digest.

We left Omaruru and drove the 120 km down to the town called Okahandja. My guide book says it’s a “nice, green and pleasant little town situated at the Swakop river”. Well, since we have one more day to spare we decided to stay here for the night and booked us in the “Villa Nina”, a small quiet guesthouse run by a German ex-airline pilot. My book also tells me, that this town is famous for its Herero cemetery. The two leaders of the battle of Waterberg, Maharero and his son Samuel, being laid to rest here. Each year on the 26th of August hundreds of Herero from all over the country gather at this site to celebrate and commemorate the heroic struggle and death of their great leaders. The women would be dressed in their incongruous looking Victorian dresses with big square turbans and the men in their military uniforms, with the so called “Kaiser” as their leader. A weird thing considering the fact that the Herero were always fighting against the German and British Imperialists!

Herero Ladies in their traditional dresses and hats
So we wander along in search of the cemetery. The path leads us past a disused tennis court and an even more derelict swimming pool. The area looks a bit dodgy but my guide book encourages us to continue “because the cemetery is a bit difficult to find”. Ok, we wander on and finally meet a young girl and an old man in a compound who show us the graveyard. It turns out that the cemetery actually consists of only ONE single grave of the father and son Maharero. The sons gravestone is a rocket with a picture of him, the fathers grave has some German writing on it and is overgrown by grass. Nobody seems to care much for the up keeping of their heroes relics. We take the obligatory picture and start walking back towards the main street when bad fate strikes.

Maharero the 'Kaiser'
Suddenly three young guys stand near the path, one stretching out his hand as to greet me. I am reluctant. I don’t like this “shake-hands-with-foreigners” business. But before I even can think, the guy grabs my arm, draws out a long sharp knife and threatens to stab me with it. Hardly realizing what happens, he rips of my shoulder bag and tears off my waist bag with our money, my mobile phone and our digital camera. Phil tries to prevent the guy from stabbing me but also realizes the imminent threat of the situation. We can only let go, and hope to at least get away unhurt. The boys run off with all our belongings… I am totally shocked. This is 12.30 in the bright sunshine, only 50m from the main street and in the middle of a allegedly safe town.

Eventually we scream after the robbers and some of the boys from the compound start to race after them. In the meantime we are led by a young women with her baby to the next police station. Phil then takes up the chase with two police men, whilst I am condemned to sit and wait. I try to make some conversation with the girl and the baby, but my mind of course is miles away…time drags on and I wished I had come with Phil. Nothing to drink here as well, and the police lady just puts on a grim face and doesn’t say anything to me. After eternity, Phil returns with the police. They have managed to catch the robber with the knife, but the two youngsters are gone, together with all our valuables. Shit!

The police start to beat the guy trying to get from him the names and contacts of his mates, but even half beating him unconscious doesn’t seem to make him talk. I feel so bad. I don’t want this brutality to happen and I already start somehow to feel sorry for the bloke. On the other hand: he could have killed me!
A few hours later we return to the station to fill in a police report. “Are you willing to appear at court” the officer asks us. We say ‘yes’ under the assumption that it never will happen anyway.
A mate of Mr. Doerr the guesthouse owner named Klaus, offers to take us to a restaurant in town. Since we are a bit paranoid now about safety, we agree and he brings us to the Okahanja Lodge, a 3-star hotel just a few km outside of town. Not our choice but we decide to stay here and have a bite to eat.

PHIL: Day 16/2 Mar

Decided to drive the short leg to Okhanja, another small town less than 100k from Windhoek, and booked into a B&B run by a former Hapag-Lloyd  A310 pilot who seems typical of large numbers of neo-German expats here.

Walking round the town at lunchtime seems harmless enough until we walk 200m off the main street following signs to Herero Graves, a tourist spot listed in our guidebook. We were shown the graves by a teenage girl living in a nearby outbuilding who couldn’t explain why one headstone represented a huge military shellcase. We suspect it honours a hero of the SWAPO war of independence.

Returning to the street along a line of ancient bottle-palms a trio of youths approaches as if in greeting. The eldest, about 17, speaks in German and holds out, curiously I note, his left hand. In seconds he has grabbed Allie’s arm and, brandishing a 20cm hunting knife, stripped her of her shoulder bag and body belt with camera and phone.

Herero lady with traditional hat (internet photo)
He and his younger accomplices run off through the bush with me, after a few seconds comforting Allie, in pursuit. It is a hopeless task on a hot day in quite dense undergrowth but we call to the nearby residents some of whom set out to chase the gang. Another young girl, babe in arms, takes us the short distance to the Police station where Allie stays to recover whilst I pile into a prison truck with two officers armed with pistols. Near the scene we jump out and I run with the police up a craggy hill where there is a series of huts in an enclosure. There is Allie’s shoulder bag, stripped of valuable items, of course. More surprisingly the police return moments later with the ring-leader in handcuffs. He is thrown unceremoniously into the van and locked in as we drive back to the Police station.

Tomb of Samual Maharero
Dragged around the back, fortunately out of Allie’s sight but, by invitation, within my full view, the robber is ‘interrogated’. What I see reminds me of the reports of Steve Biko’s demise in apartheid South Africa of the 70s. The youth is first given rabbit punches to the abdomen and neck, then flailed with a thick baton. He collapses senseless on the grass. These are black African policemen administering justice in the same fashion as their hated white predecessors from whom, no doubt, they learned the trade. It is quite pointless to object and probably dangerous to intervene in this sickening process.

A prolonged period of form-filling and statements follows and the next morning we return to see if anything had been found. Of course it hasn’t but we are advised that ‘interrogation’ will resume at 10 o’clock if we wish to wait. We do not. I am also requested to return to Namibia, at Government expense, as a witness when the case comes to trial. I doubt if I shall hear anything or that the suspect will emerge into the notional criminal justice system.

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