1. INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF ROADS IN NAMIBIA
If all existing scientific, historical and political as well as socio-economic bibliographies on Namibia are studied, the striking fact comes to mind that of more than 1.500 different publications not one deals with roads in Namibia .
Before any optimised appropriate roads model for the independent Republic of Namibia can be developed, the history of roads in Namibia should be known. Due to the fact that this sector of Namibian history is so far "terra incognita", new findings can be expected. The history of transport, as far as roads are concerned, will be investigated from the early days of Namibia (around 1250) to the year 1987. 1987 was chosen because this was the year the author left the Namibian Department of Transport, the former Roads Department. During more than 20 years of involvement in Namibian roads he was involved in the rapid development of a modern roads system which had taken place to the current high but unbalanced status-quo of roads in Namibia.
The History of Roads is divided into the precolonial era from approximately 1250 A.D., at which time the first archaeological evidence of human made roads exists, to 1884, when the German colonial power was established. This period will be subdivided into four eras: firstly the prehistoric era from circa 1250 to circa 1770, secondly the era of the Orlams and the first Europeans from circa 1770 to 1840, thirdly the era of Jonker Afrikaner from circa 1840 to circa 1860, and finally the pre-German era from circa 1860 to 1884. The period of the German administration from 1884 to 1915 will be subdivided into two sections: the initial and the consolidation eras of the German occupation. The South African era will be subdivided into five periods: firstly from 1920 to 1937 (the roads function was taken over by the SWA Administration's Works Branch), secondly from 1937 to 1945 (the first professional roads staff was appointed), thirdly from 1945 to 1952 (a separate Roads Department was established), and then from 1952 to 1965, the beginning of the modern expansion of the Namibian roads system with the final period of the recent development.
The first phase of the Namibian history of roads gives some quite unique problems to the historical researcher which are of particular interest and concern. Except for the fragmentary, contradictory or completely missing historical sources in regard to road and transport matters in the early days of Namibia, the gothic handwriting of German missionaries and officials creates an exceptional problem which is not always easily overcome. Especially the pre-German era is a difficult period in which to trace reliable historical sources relating to transportation and roads in Namibia prior to 1890. At least since 1898, the German colonial period is well documented as far as roads are concerned. The sources from the period of the South African mandatory power ignore all road developments prior to 1920, partly due to the fact that no systematic research regarding the early roads system have ever been undertaken. It presents no problem to find the necessary material to write the history of roads after 1920. The records of the South African and the SWA-Roads Department periods are mainly in quite an unsorted state of affairs and consequently add to the difficulties of the researcher.
The starting point for all research on the first Namibian roads is represented by Heinrich Vedder's books. Frequently, however, these works have to be used with caution because in many cases they do not relate directly to any primary historical source. From Vedder the research on roads will be expanded into the early traveller's narratives as well as the missionaries and traders reports. Two particular important sources are the Carl Hugo Hahn diaries and the Andersson papers.
Other historical data referring to the pre-colonial period can be found in the missionary records of the Rhenish and the London Missionary Societies. Of the missionary reports the outstanding works of the Wesleyan missionary, Benjamin Ridsdale, have to be mentioned as a primary source of the history of road developments in the pre-colonial era. Reliable travelling, trader and settler transport and especially road building evidence are only scarcely available from this period. However, other important evidence is available in the publications by the Van Riebeeck Society in Cape Town, the records of the Wesleyan Missionary Society and the extensive extracts done by E. Moritz in 1915 as well as in the "Jahresberichte" (Annual Reports). Some isolated sources from the Cape Archives, such as the reports of the Special Commissioner of the Cape Government in the 1870s, Palgrave, and from the Cory Library in Grahamstown have provided some useful material.
The early recorded history of Namibian roads cannot be separated from that of the early European explorers, adventurers, traders and missionaries who opened up this country to the outside world in the 18th and 19th century, but who also created the basis for the colonial status of Namibia, a period ended only in 1990. The history of the opening of Namibia for modern transport will be investigated and also the first ox-wagon road network will be evaluated. An assessment of these first road systems will be undertaken for the years 1836/37, 1845, 1879, 1894 and 1904. The last evaluation will make a comparison to the present-day roads system. Before 1836/37 no reliable maps of Namibia exist. Due to the fact that the Namibian ox-wagon roads in the 19th century were not set up and constituted in a legal sense, that is to say they were not proclaimed, this investigation and appraisal of the pre-colonial roads systems will result in many new findings as far as the transport history of the country, the early transport routes and ox-wagon roads and the identity of forgotten places are concerned. From 1898 onwards, roads in Namibia were proclaimed by means of road proclamation acts, and from this date onwards they were fixed in a legal sense.
In order to write the early history of transportation in Namibia before the advent of the German colonial system, it is necessary to study and evaluate the above mentioned early historical sources and numerous publications by explorers, travellers, adventurers, traders and missionaries from 1761 onwards. This work is mainly a re-constructive one, but it is pertinent to evaluate as many available historical sources as possible, in order to bring them into a logical order and to assess them from road and transport viewpoints.
The manifold old road records from the German colonial period from the 1890s to 1915 as well as some literature dealing with transport and road matters will be worked through and evaluated in order to document a consistent transport and road development for this era of the Namibian history. An effort will be made to show the colonial character of the roads system which has mainly been geared to create the basis for a German "settlers colony" with the grim consequences for the Namibian indigenes, as far as dispossession and depriving of human rights are concerned.
The mandatory period of the Union, the later Republic of South Africa, is in many aspects a continuation of the objectives of the German colonial era as far as the further development of a roads system in Namibia is concerned. For the periods 1920 to 1987 the old road records in the Windhoek State Archives and in the Department of Transport as well as the reports from the mandatory power, the Union of South Africa, to the League of Nations and the findings of the Namibia court case before the International Court at The Hague will be investigated in order to assess the status quo of the Namibian transport system as far as roads are concerned. Besides these reconstructive works efforts have been made to verify as many historical facts as possible by comparing the findings with the present-day real situation in the field as far as these old road tracks are concerned. The author's profound knowledge of the Namibian roads system, which has been gained during more than twenty years of experience as roads engineer, is of great value in this regard.