As I am currently not travelling in Namibia, I am glad that I came up with a new idea for our blog. We will be doing a new series, with Iroline.

Very often, we live in our bubble without appreciating how other people live.

Around Walvis Bay, there are 2 shanty towns: Naraville and Kuisebmond.

Iroline, who used to work for us, lives in Kuisebmond.

Iroline kindly accepted the challenge to take me to her home, to her parents’ place and to introduce me to all her family.

So for today, we drive through Kuisebmond and visit Iroline’s home, her parents’ home and we meet Iroline’s family.

In the video Iroline talks about her father being a striked fisherman. To start with I did not understand what Iroline meant, but in December 2019, there was the Fishrot scandal in Namibia where 6 prominent politicians and businessmen (Fishrot Six) were arrested as they were accused of running schemes to get control of valuable fish quotas. The allegations are that the Six acquired about 8 million euros in bribes from an Icelandic fishing company. The Six politicians and businessmen are still in jail, awaiting trial.

After the scandal, Iroline’s father, was out of work as his fishing factory closed down. The fishermen got together and went on strike. Today, I understand that the Namibian government is addressing the situation of fishing quotas and the striked fishermen are now being allocated work in new and existing fisheries.

In Namibia, there is no unemployment benefit and her father Peter survived economically by the financial support of his family.

It happens very often in Namibia where a few working members of the family share their income with the family who cannot work.

The street where Iroline lives.

Iroline is giving us a tour of her shack and introduces us to her daughter Shirley.

Her main bedroom. Iroline explains that her boyfriend who stays with them was retrenched and is now doing the odd jobs in Kuisebmond, doing plumbing, welding, brick work for building houses. He was not at home during my visit.

Iroline has 3 daughters. In the master bed , Iroline and her boyfriend sleep with their 2 years old baby daughter Toska. The other 2 daughters (Shirley and Claudia) sleep in the single bed, head to toe, and the toilets are outside.

Driving in the location. Generally there is the main house, and behind the owners’house they have a ghetto that they rent out.

Arriving at the family house where her Mom and Dad stay. I apologise about the rotating camera. The Chef is Cedric, Iroline’s brother, cooking a fish head, presumably to make soup. They dry the fish on newspaper first to absorb the moisture before putting flour and frying it in oil.

Iroline’s mother name is Flexida. Flexida was saying that she prefers to take a picture indoors as with the colour of her skin, with the sun, the picture would not come out nice, outside.

Flexida has 4 children. 2 daughters Iroline, Divine and 2 sons, 1 being the Chef on the video Cedric and another son working at sea. Ester is an adopted daughter from Flexida’s sister who passed away and she was raised and part of the family since she was little.

Ester with her new born baby boy, Yeshua, who is 2 months old and Iroline’s daughter Shirley.

Iroline’s father Peter, who is holding his grandchiledren, Toska and Zoe.

Picture of Iroline’s parents Peter and Felixa.

Iroline with her 3 children Claudia, Shirley and the 2 years’ old daughter Toska.

Family picture. Starting with Iroline and the front row… Iroline, Ester, Toska, Felixa, New Born son of Ester , Zoe, Vasco (son of Ester), Cedric, Claudia, Shirley, Alicia, Divine (Felixia’s daughter) with her boyfriend Revaldo.

Next time, with Iroline, we will be talking about African women’s hair.

Goeie nag (Bonne nuit/Good night in Afrikaans).
Murielle

As promised, this evening, I’m sending you some photos (I’ve resisted sending you more), thanks to Christophe Salti and his family (Alacarte Travels client), who has given me permission to share his photos with you.

Christophe shares his beautiful photos for free on flickr. His address is cristofe71 and you can download for free, the pictures Christophe took during his first trip in Namibia.
I’m also sending you 2 videos I took this morning while walking along the lagoon in Walvis Bay, with my friend Clara.

Enjoy your evening.
Kind regards

Murielle

As an introduction, for me, Namibia is blessed by pure natural beauty, space and freedom, and the kindness, humility, and playful nature of its people.

It is the second least populated country in the world (after Mongolia) and, at the same time, Namibia is an incredible melting pot of people from different cultural backgrounds and tribes.

The majority tribe is Ovambo, other ethnic groups are mostly Kavango, Damara, Herero, White, Nama, Caprivian, San, Basters. Namibia is also the land of pioneers, explorers, entrepreneurs, and artists.

Namibia ranks as the 3rd wealthiest country in Africa per capita but also as the second most wealth inequality in the world.

This inequality is a little bit mitigated by tribal subsistence farming in communal land.

As Namibia is in a phase of exponential growth, expected to grow by 60% by 2032, from Oil & Gas, Green Hydrogen and renewable energy, there is great hope that, with a low population of 2.6m people, directly or indirectly, everybody should benefit.

In this context of great cultural diversity, which I find particularly fascinating, I thought it would nice and educational for me (and perhaps for you too), to better understand and appreciate the life of some local people in Namibia. So, here we start:

In Walvis Bay, we live in an apartment and Nikodemus is the gentleman who looks after the outside maintenance of our residence.

Around a cup of tea, Niko generously agreed to tell me about his childhood, education, his work at the farm, getting married, his move to the city and his life today.

CHAPTER 1: NIKODEMUS’ CHILDHOOD

On the 6th of June 1981, Nikodemus Swartbooi was born. (hereafter referred as Niko).

His parents chose his name Nicodemus from the esteemed rabbi in the bible.

As a matter of interest, 80% of Namibians are Christian (mostly Lutherans, which is a branch of Protestantism, and Catholics), and 20% follow Animism.

In most tribes, if you get married, you carry the husband’s surname but interestingly, if you have children together, the children usually carry the mother’s surname.

So, Niko’s surname Swartbooi, comes from his mother’s side and it means black boy.

Also, as soon as you are born, you get a nickname.

Niko’s nickname is “Oukrop” meaning the part of the dove’s throat which stores food to feed the babies (the crop). I interpret it as being the provider of the family.

When Niko grew up, he was very good at playing volleyball and soccer and was nicknamed Tiger by his school friends.

So now, most of his family and friends call him Tiger, which he likes.

Niko’s Mum, Helena, was born from 2 different but similar tribes, the Damara and Nama tribes.
She was a nurse and is now retired.

His father was born from the Herero tribe and died shortly after Niko’s birth. They had 2 children.
When Niko was 3 years’ old, his mother married Paul, and they had 4 children together.

Niko’s stepfather Paul, and his mother Helena

Niko’s stepfather, Paul, is from Deutsch descendant and is a coloured person.
Coloured means of various ancestry, including indigenous (Khoisan, Bantu and others), Whites (including Afrikaners), Indian, Malay…

Jeremia was Niko’s grandfather; he had a farm and was a garbage truck driver at Maltahohe village council from 1985 to 2000. Jeremia then retired and died in 2009 at the age of 68, which is quite an old age in Namibia, as life expectancy is around 62.

Niko spent most of his childhood and education in Maltahohe, a town in Southern Central Namibia of about 6000 inhabitants.

At school, Niko graduated to grade 12 and received his high school diploma.

In Namibia, this is a high level of education and equivalent to a year before A levels in the UK, and la terminale in France.

Local Namibians are very talented with languages and amazingly, Niko speaks Nama, Damara, English, Afrikaans, Baxa taw is sit id (English/Afrikaans in reverse).

To finish our first chapter, here is a little recording of Niko, speaking Damara.

Have a nice evening
Kind regards
Murielle

 

Let us continue our little blog on Namibia.
The last chapter was about Niko’s childhood. Niko is in charge of the outside maintenance of our residence. If you would like to see previous blogs/stories, you can locate them at: People of Namibia. Chapter 1: Nikodemus Childhood – A la Carte Travels

Around a cup of tea, Niko generously agreed to tell me about his childhood, education, his work at the farm, getting married, his move to the city and his life today.

CHAPTER 2: NIKODEMUS AT THE FARM

So, Niko completed his education and graduated at the high school to Grade 12 (a year before A levels in the UK, and la Terminale in France).
As part of the curriculum, they had Nama Cultural Dancing and Niko was very good at it.

@khoiforlife

#namagowab #heritage #SAMA28 #realhistory

♬ original sound – khoiforlife

After his graduation, Niko was admitted to further his education and to go and teach Nama language in South Africa.
Unfortunately, his parents could not afford the school fees and he was sent, at the age 20, and for 5 years, to the family community farm to look after his grandfather’s goats and sheep.
At the time, Niko’s grandfather was sick and Niko was the only one working and living at the farm.

When you start working at the community farm, the Government helps by giving 15 goats and 15 sheep. You raise them and after 5 years you give 10 goats and 10 sheep back to the government so that this donation can perpetuate.

They do not have cattle in this arid area because the cows eat too much grass and drink too much water.

The government also helps for agriculture giving plants and when they grow you can sell them.
Mostly it is subsistence farming, which means that in practise they grow crops and raise animals only for their own co
nsumption without any surplus for trade.
Niko said it was a very tough life, and as there were many draughts, he mostly ate porridge.

About 1.1 million people live in communal areas, out of a total Namibian population of 2.6 million people.
In Namibia there is commercial farming, where the land is privately owned and there is Communal Land.
Communal Land, which used to belong to the indigenous communities, now belongs to the Government, which then distributes and allocates the land among the rural communities.

 

 

In our next blog, we will explain how Communal Land works in Namibia.

Have a nice evening
Kind regards
Murielle

As Niko has a farm in the communal Land, let us explain how it works:
In Namibia there is commercial farming, where the land is privately owned and there is Communal Land.

Communal land is managed by traditional authorities, who are leaders chosen by the community. They might include Chiefs, Headmen, or other elders who are respected and trusted by the community. Their authority is often based on cultural traditions and the recognition of their leadership by the people they serve.

People who can apply for this communal land typically include members of the community itself, like families or groups living in that area. When someone wants to use this land for farming or other purposes, they need permission from the traditional authorities.

Communal land cannot be bought or sold, but you can be given a customary land right to a part of the communal land. The traditional laws in these areas usually govern how the land is used and inherited, and they’re important for maintaining the harmony and traditions of the community.
There are things you can do on communal land, like farming, grazing animals, or building houses, but you need to follow the rules set by the traditional authorities.

he leaders of Communal Land have various powers and responsibilities:

  1. Land Management: They often oversee the allocation and management of communal land, making decisions about how it’s used and who can use it for activities like farming, grazing, or settlement.
  2. Conflict Resolution: Traditional authorities may act as mediators in disputes within the community, helping to resolve conflicts and maintain peace.
  3. Preservation of Culture and Tradition: They play a crucial role in preserving and promoting cultural practices, customs, and traditional laws within the community.
  4. Decision-Making: They make decisions that affect the community, often based on consensus and considering the well-being of the entire community.
  5. Representation: They might represent their community in dealings with government authorities or other external entities, advocating for the interests of their people.
  6. Their powers can vary depending on the specific traditions and customs of each community, and they usually work in conjunction with government to address local issues.

In many traditional societies, criminal law is often recognized and enforced through customary or traditional practices rather than formal legal systems. Here’s an example of how criminal law might be handled within traditional law:

Let’s say within a community following traditional law, theft is considered a serious crime. If someone is accused of stealing, the matter might be brought before the traditional authorities, which could include the village chief or council of elders.

 

  1. Investigation: The traditional authorities, managed by the Chief of the Village, would investigate the accusation, gathering information from witnesses and the accused individual.
  2. Mediation: Depending on the severity of the theft and the circumstances, the authorities might opt for mediation between the victim and the accused person’s family. This could involve restitution or compensation to resolve the matter.
  3. Sanctions: If the theft is proven and it’s a serious offense, the traditional authorities might impose sanctions such as fines, temporary banishment from the community, or other measures deemed appropriate within their customary laws.
  4. Community Involvement: The entire community might be involved in the process, providing input or support for the decision-making process. If it is a really serious offense, a representative group of the community would go to the Governor of the Region , who works together with the government, to help maintain order and solidarity within the community.The traditional legal system often focuses on restorative justice rather than punitive measures. The emphasis is often on restoring balance within the community and repairing the harm caused by the offense.

When there is a private lodge established in communal land, the lodge generally pays a bed-night levy to the local communities surrounding the land that they use. This cost is transferred to the Client/Tourist as a community levy.

There are types of agreements including a joint venture lodge which is the most profitable form of agreement for the local community, people living in the communal land:

It is a partnership between a private investor and the local community. A private investor builds and operates the lodge and the community receives a share of the benefits. This is the case of Damaraland Camp, which has a partnership between the Torra Concervancy and Wilderness Safaris.

The private investors also invest in the training of skills of local employees giving training in tourism including professional and managerial skills.

Local community residents also sell food, building materials, crafts and food to tourists.

The community levies on lodges, the help of the government for agriculture, the sell of cattle, crops, crafts, employment of local community in lodges, private sector, living museums, all help contribute income to the people living in communal land although it may be difficult to know how many local people benefit and who benefits.

What is interesting also is you can be a Chief, a Headman (a Headman acts as Agent of the Chief and their responsibility only goes to the Chief), in the communal land, and at the same time working in a lodge, where you are not the boss and have to comply with the rules and bow to the hierarchy of the company.

Even if you are the President of the Republic of Namibia, when you are going to your tribal community village, you have to bow to the rules of the Community.

As it is the case for Niko, mostly young children and grandparents live in the communal farms while the adults are working in the city. They often help their elders financially and also enjoy going on holiday and family gatherings at the farm.

During Covid, many people went back to the Communal farms to survive.

Next time, we will explain the transition of Niko from living in the farm to working in the city, getting married, and settling in Walvis Bay.

Enjoy your Sunday. Kind regards

Murielle

 

If you recall, in a previous blog, after the school graduation, Niko was admitted to further his education and to go and teach Nama language in South Africa.

Unfortunately, his parents could not afford the school fees and he was sent, at the age 20, and for 5 years, to the family community farm to look after his grandfather’s goats and sheep.

Life was tough and solitary except for the fact that Niko met Sofia in 2003 when she was visiting her Grandmother who was living at a neighbouring farm.

They fell in love, Sofia was working in Walvis Bay at the time, they could only see each other now and then, but eventually got married in 2017.

He said that it was difficult to go to the city to find work as he had little confidence and no work experience, but he managed to find casual work, including unloading trucks often full of food or cement.

He was paid daily for his work and very little but it allowed him to survive. Eventually Niko secured a contract job for an agricultural company and worked for them in Windhoek and Maltahohe for 2 years.

Thereafter, Niko had a friend living in Walvis Bay who told him that there was a job offer at a local cleaning agency.

Niko got the position as a part time job first, and it happened to be in our apartment building.

When Corona virus came, the agency told Niko to go home without any compensation or minimum pay.

Unlike in Europe, during Covid time the Namibian Government only helped a little, and most people had to find a way to survive on their own or with the benevolence of the community.

After he was sent back home, Niko applied directly to our Body Corporate for the position and has now been working full time for the last 3 years and in charge of the outside maintenance of our complex.

Niko told me this week that he feels grateful that his life is now more settled, and on our side, we are blessed, enjoying his presence and very good work.

Niko & Sofia have 2 children:

Immanuel (nicknamed Buddha) who is turning 14 this year and Deborah is going to be 6 years old.

Deborah is an adapted child from his wife’s sister who could not raise the baby. It is quite common in Namibia that children are sometimes raised by relatives or friends.

Until the end of 2023, Niko lived in a shack and after a long waiting list he managed to obtain a subsidised government plot of 240m2 where he can become, for the first time, Landowner and build his own house.

Last month, Niko and his family moved to the new plot, and in less than a month, built a temporary house mostly made of planks and corrugated iron.

The next step, with our help and Anton’s family (Anton is my Life Partner), the plan is to build Niko a proper brick house. When Niko’s house is completed, I will send you a picture and will add it to the website blog.

As a message to Niko, thank you Niko for entrusting me to write about your life and to allow me to share it with our readers.

Congratulations for facing adversity and creating a better life for you, and for your family.

We wish you continued progress, happiness, and comfort in your new house.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the life of NIKODERMUS, which is unique and at the same time similar, in many aspects, to the life of many local people in Namibia.

I wish each of you a very nice evening. Très bonne soirée à chacun.

Next time I will be sending you some nice pictures of Namibia. No more than 20, I promise.

Kind regards

Murielle

Earlier this year, I visited the small town of Oranjemund, which is about 300km South of Luderitz (previous blog), Extreme Southwest part of Namibia.

Oranjemund is one of the world’s richest diamond areas, where the Orange River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, the River being the boundary between Namibia and South Africa.
At 10mn away, there is the border post to South Africa, at Ernest Oppenheimer Bridge, and the nearest town in South Africa is Alexander Bay
The diamond mine opened in 1936 and belonged to De Beers. (today 50% De Beers, 50% Namibian Government).

Almost everything in Oranjemund belonged to the Mine. That is why it was not opened to the public until 2017.
Before 2017, the Public was forbidden to enter the Town. Only employees and their relatives were allowed access.
Unlike Kolmanskop, the diamond mine in Oranjemund is still open and extracts in the region of 2 million carats (400kg) per year.

Many Nationalities
At the time of the diamond rush and later, people living in Oranjemund (about 15,000) came from countries as diverse as America, France, Greece, Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Poland Yugoslavia, Italy, Canada, Angola, Rhodesia, Zambia, Botswana, Argentina.
In the pubs around town, these individuals would be known by their nicknames like Gordon the Butcher, Danny the Greek, Big Dirk, Magic Allen, Tommy the Shark, Mike the Gypsy, etc.

Contract of employment at the time: 54 hours a week
In the 30s, their contracts of employment stated: 54 hours are to be worked per week, so that they worked from sunrise to sundown as a rule.
If one person had been employed for a whole year without a day off, then he was granted 5 days off work, and after 5 years of employment he was eligible for 9 days’ holiday.

Flying to School
There was no High School in Oranjemund, so most youngsters were shipped by planes to various schools in South Africa.

DIAMOND SMUGGLERS
At random, the employees and their relatives were X-rayed when leaving town.
Diamond theft is heavily punished, and one wonders how it is still possible to smuggle the precious stones from the mines.
It is fascinating to see how creative smugglers can be.
During the early days of the diamond rush, diamonds were smuggled in cigarette packets and matchboxes, but of course such tricks were soon well known so the thieves had to be ever more innovative.
The diamonds were transported in radios and tape recorders, shoes and heels, sewn into clothing, in guns, and even in the stomach or intestines. There were also the carrier pigeons.

Carrier Pigeons
There was the story that an employee had trained a pigeon to memorize the route from his home to the Diamond mine. One day, going to work at the Diamond Mine, he hid the pigeon in his lunch box. When the time was opportune, he strapped a little pouch on the chest of the pigeon, and filled it with diamonds, so that the pigeon could fly to the man’s home with the booty.
Unfortunately, the pouch with the stolen diamonds became too heavy, the bird struggled to fly and landed exhausted, at the entrance of the Mine, almost at the feet of a Security Guard.
When the Guard saw this unusual pigeon, he raised the alarm. They recovered the diamonds, released the pigeon and followed where the pigeon was heading to later arrest the culprit.
There are many stories of smuggling diamonds.
Some make it, some get caught.

The Flight of Diamonds
Another unsuccessful and fantastic story was one of a geologist who worked for the diamond company, who stored a valuable cache of diamonds, on the coast, and then left the mine.
He then travelled to Cape Town and found a pilot willing to fly him back, up to the diamond fields, to recover the cache.
They flew up and landed on the beach near the cache, but when they landed the aircraft became bogged and they could not take off again.
Shortly afterwards, the men were arrested with the diamonds and the aircraft was confiscated.

Something that my Friend Judy told me, whose father was working at Oranjemund mine from the 1966 to 1975 is that when DeBeers celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Company, they generously gave 1 carat of good quality diamond to all their employees and company’s pensioners.
Who knows how many people received the 1 carat diamond!.

Good evening everybody. See you next time for Part 2.

So, as mentioned in Part 1, Oranjemund is still one of the richest diamond areas in the world.
Almost everything in Oranjemund belonged to the Mine. That is why it was not opened to the public until 2017.
Before 2017, the Public was forbidden to enter the Town. Only employees and their relatives were allowed access.
Here is the official ceremony for the opening of the town in 2017.

Unlike Kolmanskop, the diamond mine in Oranjemund (picture below) is still open and extracts in the region of 2 million carats (400kg) of diamonds per year.

When I was there earlier this year, we were told that in a 40t truck full of gravel, only 3 small diamonds in average are found, depending on the area.
Like in all mining, vast land areas are being carved, for the extraction process.
Interestingly, we were told that the competition of the diamond industry today is tourism.
People no longer tend to invest in diamonds but many in tourism.
Travelling makes us feel alive, curious about life, we discover, enjoy, learn, grow, broaden our vision of the world, we meet other people, other cultures, and that is all part of our rich experience of life.

Back to Oranjemund, it is a lovely, well kept, tranquil, green town, in the middle of the desert.
There are only 4000 inhabitants or so.
The oryx gently and happily graze in the parks.
The historical Jasper House Museum is worth visiting.
The Bean Tree Coffee Shop is very nice.
There is only basic accommodation in Oranjemund at present.
There seems to be a nice golf course and angling is a popular activity.

The Orange River, which is a few minutes away from town, flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
The River is the boundary between Namibia and South Africa.

At 10mn from Oranjemund, you can cross the river and get to Alexander Bay in South Africa via the Oppenheimer Bridge.
FYI, Ernest Oppenheimer was a German born industrialist, financier and one of the most successful leaders in the mining industry in South Africa and Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe), at the time.

Here is a picture taken from the Orange River Mouth Viewpoint.
After a few days in Oranjemund, you would probably get bored, but it is an unusual and nice place to visit.

Have a nice evening

Kind regards

Murielle

 

 

 

Today we are going to experience Hot Air Ballooning in Sossusvlei.

This is a unique, grand, and romantic experience.

It is best to stay the night before close-by, as generally you need to arrive at the Namib Sky Balloon Safaris base early.
A convenient spot to stay is at Le Mirage lodge, which is only 1 km away and the food is very good.

1h30 before dawn (in our case it was at 05:30) you arrive at Namib Sky base for registration and you are then transferred on a 4×4 to the launch site, which was about 15mn away.
Namib Sky Balloon Safaris is a family business. The Owner Dennis is from Belgium and his wife Andrea is Portuguese.
Except for pregnant women and children under 6 years’ old (if their height is under 1.2m), anybody can join. In their case, they can follow the balloon with the ground crew in the 4×4 vehicle and there is a babysitter for children, if required.

The balloon flight in Sossusvlei/Namibrand lasts about 1hr and our bird’s view is magnificent over the orange desert and undulating dunes.

The landing was also fun as we landed directly onto the trailer!!

After the flight, we all gather and enjoy a delicious buffet Champagne breakfast/brunch, in the middle of the desert. It is really top class.

If you have the opportunity, hot air ballooning in Sossusvlei/Namibrand is a wonderful and memorable experience to have.

Kind regards/Cordialement

Murielle