For a period of two years I lived in Ausspannplatz close to the police headquarters. This area was previously the place travellers would stop and leave their wagons before entering Windhoek. (“Aus spann” means to let the cattle free to graze.) There is a small park and two traffic circles in the area. This is the downtown of the city.
As in most cities and towns around the world, the downtown has become a night life area filled with bars and casinos. Of course, where there is money and alcohol, there are also prostitutes and drugs.
When my forefathers (the Plaatjies family) came to Windhoek, they had a business in the area – opposite where the Ministry of Transport and Works is today. Not surprisingly, I found some of the people still remember my family in the area.
But it is the night life that was the most interesting. The area starts to come alive with the “night people starting around 16H00. The first “ladies” start appearing as their customers pass by before heading to their respective homes. Alcohol is being bought for the night ahead as it is cheaper from the bottle store than at the bar. The men in the area are either “boyfriends”, (who share the income with their girlfriends), drug peddlers – mostly marijuana, or petty thieves.
I have spent many an interesting evening with the people of the area and have never felt threatened by anyone. However, life and death are ever present. This can be through knife fights, being shot by the robbery victim or police, or while asleep on the railway lines.
During this period I met a young lady who was living in the area and we became more than just friends. I later moved to another part of Windhoek and she moved with me. However, this part of town and the people in the area were too part of her life. We later broke up and she returned to spending her day and nights in Ausspannplatz. Unfortunately, she became sick and as it was untreated it led to pneumonia. She passed away three days after being admitted to the hospital.
Elmarie Motswana was only 24 years old.
Her story began when she was 13 years old. Her mother and stepfather worked as labourers on a commercial farm close to Mariental. She became pregnant and had a baby boy at this age. Barely literate and with no hope, she moved to Windhoek to get another chance at schooling. Within a few months the lights of the city had bedazzled her and she went missing from her family’s house.
She created a new history for herself and over the next ten years she became Elmarie Motswana. She had played soccer at school and had gone with the school team to Brazil. Her mother was a rich lady from Katutura, but she hardly went home because her stepfather did not like her. And so it went on with each passing year and less and less of the true Elmarie stayed behind. Only after her passing, was I able to piece together some of her past.