Namibia’s relaxed approach when it comes to celebrity is one of the main reasons why Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt chose this arid stretch of Africa to have their baby — and they should be left alone, locals say.
In early April, Hollywood’s golden couple, together with their two adopted children Maddox and Zahara, quietly jetted into Namibia where Jolie (30) is expected to give birth to their child.
Even in this remote corner of the continent, news of their presence quickly leaked out, unleashing a torrent of tabloid and paparazzi journalists on the small holiday resort of Langstrand, on the country’s west coast.
Wedged between the icy Atlantic and rising sand dunes of the world’s oldest desert, the Namib, the small resort town has become the scene of clashes between the press pack — straining to get a glimpse of the couple — and Jolie’s bodyguards, backed by Namibian police.
A Namibian rights organisation and journalists have accused VIP guards and police of heavy-handed tactics, including a door-to-door search for suspected paparazzi and assaults on photographers with pepper spray.
But ordinary Namibians who live along Langstrand (Afrikaans for ”Long Beach”) said this week they believe the star couple should be left alone.
”Namibians are not celebrity mad like in Europe or the United States,” said Almuth Styles, who runs a tourist information shop in the scenic nearby colonial German holiday town of Swakopmund.
Styles said that when Jolie visited Namibia in 2002 for the filming of the movie Beyond Borders, none of the locals were bothered too much about it.
”Jolie even came into the office asking for directions. I didn’t recognise her and only afterwards a young trainee told me that it was her,” she laughed.
Another resident, Roger du Toit, who every day takes his dog for a walk past the Burning Shore Lodge, where the couple is staying, said ”they are just ordinary people to me, enjoying the beautiful, unspoilt stretch of the beach and the view of the Atlantic Ocean”.
”Let them enjoy this place like everybody else. It doesn’t matter whether they are famous or not,” Du Toit said with a typical shrug of Namibian shoulders.
The owner of a cluster of holiday flats next to the Burning Shore Lodge added she discovered a group of foreign paparazzi perched on the balcony of one of her apartments.
”They brought a ladder with them and climbed to the balcony of a chalet that I had rented out,” Merylin Leippert said.
”When I arrived the people who rented the chalet informed me of their unwelcome ‘guests’,” she said. ”They [the paparazzi] told me they had permission from the owner and I told them, ‘I am the owner and that they certainly did not have my consent,’ so I made them leave promptly.”
Around this time of year, Langstrand’s long white beach is empty and most of the resort’s holiday homes are locked.
Its misty shores where the desert and the ocean meet are only frequented during vacations and long weekends, when most residents drive here to escape the oppressive heat of the interior.
Langstrand’s Burning Shore Lodge is a down-to-earth place. The resort does not boast a single shop, just a small seaside restaurant, and shopping for groceries has to be done either in Walvis Bay, Namibia’s crusty port town 15km to the south, or in Swakopmund, an equal distance to the north.
Jolie this week broke her silence on her life with Pitt (42) saying the intense media and public interest in their relationship just makes her ”giggle”.
”It’s just kind of funny … If [Brad] saw this, he would probably understand why I was laughing. Because I just don’t know how to address that kind of thing,” Jolie told NBC television’s Today show, in an interview taped in Namibia. — Sapa-AFP