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Namibia: Land of beef

MY voyage to the city of Windhoek on March 20 this year started in haste after being instructed to do so at short notice.
The task at hand was to cover President Lungu, who was in Namibia to witness that country’s silver jubilee celebrations and the inauguration of the nation’s third President Hage Geingob on March 21.
I had little option but to rush and arrange for monies from our finance department, purchase an air ticket and pack my bag to catch the next flight willy-nilly!
A mixture of angst and excitement was rushing through me as I trotted around and raced against time as the function in Windhoek was due to take place the next day starting at 09:00 hours.
Anxiety was almost getting the better side of me when a relaxed and smiling travel agent informed me that the internet system to enable online flight booking was off.
I immediately found an alternative travel agency, where I was offered an itinerary to fly to Johannesburg at 18:00 hours and connect to Windhoek at 06:40 hours the following day.
This offer had no alternative and I was happy to fly that way as I was going to have a short night of rest in South Africa’s commercial capital.
I landed at Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek at about 09:00 hours and proceeded on a 45-kilometre journey from the airport into the city to undertake my crucial assignment at Namibia’s Independence Stadium, which was a hive of activities to mark the colourful ceremony.
As I was being driven on a taxi, I observed huge tracts of farm lands, which are mainly used for animal grazing or so, as I was informed by Lukas, the taxi driver.
I also curiously enquired from Lukas about the general security situation and he assured me that I could roam around the city like a ‘free bird’ without any apprehension of being mugged or pick-pocketed.
“The population of this country is very small, so it is easy for the police to track down and arrest anyone committing crime,” he assured.
Namibia’s population was estimated to be over 2.3 million as of January this year. The majority of the population lives in the northern part of the country. Twenty-six languages are spoken among Namibia’s 14 ethnic groups.
Windhoek city is impressively and conspicuously clean and little wonder why it is rated the cleanest in Africa.
Haphazard street vending and garbage are as rare as a ‘blue’ moon, while the roads and streets are well paved, marked complete with street lighting.
Townships, also referred to as locations, are equally clean despite being dotted with shebeens (makeshift bars).
One of the biggest and historical townships in this city is Katutura, which was founded by the then apartheid government of Namibia for black people in the 1950s, when the previous township, Old Location, was converted into the suburb of Hochland Park.
Tourists now ‘soak up’ in the bustling ordinary life of this lively township, which is also renowned for mildly roasted and unsalted beef chops locally known as kapana, otherwise referred to as michopo (meat chops) in Zambia.
After executing the presidential assignment, some of my colleagues and I trooped to the much talked about township to see for ourselves.
“Your visit [to Windhoek] is incomplete without a visit to Katutura and eating some kapana,” our driver Sam notified us as we were sight-seeing and heading to the city’s biggest township.
Roasting and eating kapana is funfair and cuts across social divide and age as people from all walks of life can be seen crowding around the long stretch of specially built outdoor grills at Oshetu Community Market.
It is at this market where people pick their choice cuts of beef, which are later roasted and sliced into small pieces by the ‘teller’ and wrapped in a newspaper for those preferring a take-away.
Some consumers prefer to complement the fatty glittering roasted fresh meat with grated tomatoes and onions as a vegetable while millet and maize ‘pap’ (nshima) is also readily available for those who wish to have a full meal.
An equivalent of munkoyo or chibwantu made from millet with a marginally tart taste is usually served with the pap meal. This is unlike in Zambia, where meals are usually lapped down with water.
Others, like elsewhere, just wash down the kapana with chilled beers such as Windhoek Lager, which costs as little as K3 but is over three times the price in Zambia.
It is also not strange to find others stuffing meat chops into a ‘fat cookie’, pronounced as fet kuki, as fritters are referred to in Windhoek, before eagerly sinking their teeth into it.
The firewood-heated and partly smoked barbeque is simply a snack of choice for many Namibians, which visitors also fail to resist.
Little wonder why beef consumption is ‘super’ high in this part of the world with an approximated 100 cows or more consumed daily at Oshetu Community Market alone.
Namibia’s cattle population is said to be triple that of humans.
And perhaps strange to Zambia but true in Namibia: The Namibian government has initiated a fish consumption promotion under the Namibia Fish Consumption Promotion Trust by subsidising the price of fish, which is usually sold from refrigerated containers at markets.
Most of Namibia’s fish is processed and exported as local consumption is said to be extremely low.
Oshetu Community Market is akin to our markets in Zambia as it has a fair share of dried or traditionally preserved foods on sale.
These range from vegetables such as katapa (green cassava leaves) to finkubala (dried caterpillars).
It is rare to find fresh green vegetables while a handful cake of preserved greens can cost as much as K20.
My visit to Katutura township crowned my tour of duty as it is partly a true depiction of the Namibian culture.
Generally, Windhoek, the bustling capital, can be described as a city that wears its history on its sleeve.
People, buildings, monuments and neighbourhoods contribute to the narrative of local and foreign cultures and their history, making it a unique place to visit and write home about.