|3. THE HISTORY OF NAMIBIAN ROADS IN THE
3.1 THE INITIAL ERA OF GERMAN OCCUPATION 1884 - 1904
The beginning of the era of the German occupation in Namibia, in 1884, did not bring any new technological improvements to the roads system. The ox-wagon still determined the design parameters for any road building activities, but from now on new road building developments in Namibia were initiated by the requirements of the German forces. Initially, this development seems to have been limited in its scope. It has, however, to be borne in mind that this was before the advent of the pneumatic tyre, and the standards were in accordance with the minimum requirements of the rugged ox-wagon. The roads system in this time mirrors the beginning of the political and economic control of Namibia by the new colonial administration. In the first twenty years this administration was not able to really achieve its objective, namely to create a German settlers colony.
A typical report about travelling by ox-wagon during this period can be found in a book
by the Swedish traveller, Peter August Möller, who travelled through southern Angola and
northern Namibia in 1895/96. Möller was an observant and accurate reporter and his book
contains a wealth of first-hand information about travelling in Angola, Owambo and
Damaraland, and his description gives a valuable impression of travelling in Namibia in
the epoch of the ox-wagon :
The number of oxen for each wagon varies between fourteen and twenty; if the wagon is loaded, the full team of twenty must be used. At the inspanning the yoke is laid over the neck of the ox; it is prevented from sliding backwards by two wooden pieces fitted into it (yoke-pin or Afrikaans: jukskei), which are connected underneath the neck of the animal by a thong; the oxen are tied to each other in pairs, with thongs between the horns above the foreheads. The pair of oxen closest to the wagon is called the "agter"-oxen; they must be especially good and experienced because the steering of the wagon depends on their obedience and sagacity. Thus they must keep a watchful eye and avoid tree- stumps, rocks etc in the road which could stop or overturn the wagon; when the driver shouts the name of the one or the other; it must immediately push inwards with all its might, the other ox of the pair must then yield, so that the wagon attains the desired direction. Apart from the agter-oxen there is another pair of special importance, that is, the first pair or "voor"-oxen; these must know to keep to the road, to avoid obstacles and, like the agter-oxen, to yield to the side when called. All the oxen have names; .. A well-trained ox must pay attention to its name and pull hard in the yoke when it is called. When they are well fed, these animals are imposing with their very long, often gracefully curved horns.
Unless the fore-oxen find the way by themselves, the first pair of oxen is generally led by a boy, a "leader (voorleier)", who walks in front of the span and whose responsibility it is to see that the road or the wagon-track is not lost, or, where there is no road, to select one himself; then comes the headman of the wagon, the "driver" himself. He drives the wagon and is responsible for it and all it contains. It is an important matter for the traveller to obtain a good driver and it is often difficult to find one. .. The driver has to know his oxen well and understand the art of handling the heavy whip, which consists of a long, strong stick, about four metres long, at the end of which is fastened the five metres long lash of giraffe hide. The whip, or "sjambok" as it is called, is always handled with both hands and when well handled is a terrible instrument - every lash sounds like a shot and strikes with unfailing accuracy the required place on the animal; sometimes the lashes come from above down onto the back, neck or ears, sometimes they strike from below the belly and legs. When necessary the driver runs now on the one, now on the other side of the span, and as fast as he shouts the names of the oxen, as fast the lashes rain forwards and backwards with such force that the hairs fly from the animals. In the intervals when all goes well the driver sits calmly on the front box with pipe in mouth, only occasionally shouting the name of an ox together with some coarse invective or other. The driver is assisted by one or two boys who help him to whip the oxen when necessary; further there is always a boy behind the wagon who handles the brake when going downhill and who looks after the oxen when they are grazing.
Without doubt the first journey with such a wagon makes a most peculiar impression on the traveller and for my part I shall never forget it. It was, as I said, early in the morning and so dark that you hardly see the objects around you. Suddenly the whip cracks. "Vat! Vat!" shout the drivers and boys in chorus, and slowly the heavily laden wagons start moving. But they move forwards for only a few minutes, the wheels sink down to the naves in the soft sandy bed of the Bera River  and then we sit firmly fast. Now starts an infernal noise, the sjambok rains down lashes with unbelievable speed over the poor oxen, Boers and natives shout all they can: "Loop! Loop! Alle beeste - Varenberg! Taffelberg! Zeeland du schelm!" The oxen pull and strain in the yokes, bellowing with pain and rage, throw themselves furiously onto their knees, rush up and threaten their tormentors with their horns, get entangled in the harness, and when, in spite of all this they cannot budge the wagon and the sjambok is still tearing off the hair of their backs, all of them all at once, as if by agreement, rush of the road, turn about towards the wagon and stop it with horns lowered, ready to attack the driver. They are now allowed to breathe for a while .. In this way we travelled through the "veld". The country rises slowly to the interior; the ground consists of sand and stone, there are no trees or grass, only here or there grows a little sedum - as far as the eye can see the desert extends completely naked and barren. Every third hour the oxen are outspanned to rest and, if grass is found, graze. .. The oxen are called back to the wagon by the driver cracking his whip in the direction towards which the animals had gone in search for grazing; when they return they arrange themselves in a row to the left of the trek-rope with their heads turned towards it, and without too much resistance allow the head-thongs to be fixed round the horns and the inspanning proceeds - and then one carries on once again.
Actual roads are found only along the main routes close to the larger centres of population; otherwise one has to travel across the veld as best one can. Smaller trees and bushes are crushed under the big wheels; if one gets stuck against a large tree-stump or rock the jack is taken out and the wagon is lifted sufficiently to go over the obstacle. In this way one travels across ground where the stranger could not imagine it possible to drive a wagon, much less a heavily laden one. Sometimes the road runs upwards or downwards across steep boulder-strewn parts and in between one is stuck for hours in some sandy river-bed or other loose ground. If the road is hard and good again, one may travel up to four and half kilometres per hour."
This was to be the mode of travel in Namibia until the threshold of the First World War and even in the twenties and thirties. But it must be also recorded that, with the arrival of the German settlers, a change in the general transport pattern took place. The new settlers arrived mainly at the harbours on the Namibian coast, e.g. Walvis Bay and Angra Pequeña. They had to traverse the harsh Namib Desert to reach the Namibian interior. The consequence was that a new colonial transport pattern developed which even more intensified the east-west orientated transport direction at the cost of north-south links.
A Roads Ordinance dated August, 4th 1888 serves the purpose to protect the grazing along the Northern Bay Road between Otjikango and the Swakop River mouth.
In January 1894 a German map, the "Langhans' Deutscher Kolonial Atlas, Nr.15: Südwestafrikanisches Schutzgebiet", 1:2.000.000 was published, and the ox-wagon road network of the initial epoch of the German occupation is listed in Appendix Table 2 at the end of this publication.
A comparison between Hahn's map of 1879 and Langhans' map of 1894 establishes the fact that no great differences in the ox-wagon roads networks existed between these two periods in the areas south of the Swakop River. The only exception is a remarkable increase of new east-west links. From the Swakop River, in a northerly direction to Damaraland, to Owamboland, the Okavango and the Kaokoveld, a tremendous extension of roads had taken place in the initial period of the German colonisation. This can be attributed to the increasing trade with Namibia's north during this period, again dictated by the interests of European traders who now were entitled to the protection of the German power. This added to the hitherto mainly economic character of roads, that of a military strategy employed in order to achieve the colonial objective of the German Empire: to create a settler's colony.
The Namib Desert was a considerable obstacle to any ox-wagon traffic, and it led to numerous trials to replace the wagon traffic by more desert adapted transport means. In spite of some unsuccessful trial crossings of the Namib Desert by a steam engine, the ox-wagon traffic started to develop even further, with ever rising intensity and travelling distances during the beginning of the 1890s . The traffic increased as a direct result of the resistance war between Germans and Namibians in 1893, when more military forces arrived, and indirectly as a result of the increasing trade with European goods . But this first resistance war of Namibians against the colonial power not only initiated but also interrupted road transport. During August 1893, Hendrik Witbooi, the leader of the Nama troops fighting the Germans, successfully interrupted the vital German supply line, the Bay Road between Windhoek and Swakopmund, while surprisingly attacking Schmerenbeck's freight train at the places Dieptal and Horibes in the Swakop valley. The train consisted of 20 wagons with essential reinforcements for the garrison in Windhoek. Twelve years later, on 29 October 1905, during the Great National Resistance War (1904-1909), another important German line of communications witnessed Hendrik Witbooi's last fateful struggle when this great Namibian was killed in action while sacking a German freight wagon at the farm Fahlgras [Vaalgras, Koichas] on the road from Koës to Berseba in the Namibian south . Organised construction activities during the initial phase of the German occupation was, however, the responsibility of the German "Schutztruppe" (protection force). This pattern remained unchanged until 1912 when the civil district councils were made responsible for construction and maintenance of Namibian roads. In 1894 the German artist, Troost, tried to replace the tedious ox-wagon traffic on the "Bay Road" from Swakopmund into the interior by the implementation of a steam traction engine, but it did not succeed to operate under the harsh conditions of the Namib Desert, and the attempt was duly abandoned. Originally, Troost intended to inaugurate a freight service out of Swakopmund with the above mentioned steam traction engine hauling several wagons. The engine was imported from Germany and arrived complete with a mechanic, who was also to serve as the driver. Due to a lack of landing facilities at Swakopmund at this time both were landed at Walvis Bay. The mechanic took one look at the desert and went home. The engine rested some time in Walvis Bay until Troost succeeded in finding a mining prospector who was willing to try his luck at getting the machine to Swakopmund. Three months later he delivered the engine to Troost at Swakopmund. It had practically been pushed the entire distance because it had the tendency to dig itself into the deep sand every time an effort was made to move it under its own power. Service was started and the traction engine did surprisingly well once the coastal sand belt was traversed, but the desert was the stronger, and it finally blew a tube which could not be replaced. Later the people of Namibia called this "monument" the "Martin Luther" - hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders - (here I stand and I cannot do otherwise), and this was the first "White Elephant" in Namibia's history of roads .
Troost Vehicle, 1895
From 1 July 1896 to 1 May 1897 the following traffic numbers were counted on the "Bay Road" at Otjimbingwe: 1.924 wagons, 50 carts and 45.552 oxen as well as 534 horses. The travelling time for the 382 km long journey between Windhoek and Swakopmund was two to three weeks, and the transport rate for 50 kg mass was 30 Mark. One wagon could handle payloads of 2.000 to 2.500 kg, and it took 24 oxen to drag it along what was referred to as a road. During the financial year 1896/97 22.542 Mark were spent on construction and maintenance of ox-wagon roads. This amount was spent on two road projects, namely the road from Avis, east of Windhoek costing 5.000 Mark and the road Keetmanshoop-Lüderitzbucht through the Neiams Mountains costing 17.542 Mark. Further road improvements were continued on the "Bay Road" between Tsaobis and Salem, on the road between Groß Barmen and Otjiseva as well as on the road between Okahandja and Otjizasu .
In spite of all these activities, the rinderpest, which during July 1897 descended upon the draft oxen and decimating their number unmercifully, for a long time stopped all road traffic with ox-wagons. The supply line literally collapsed and barely let enough supplies through to keep the German power alive, and made it imperative to find alternative transport solutions. Consequently, building activities moved swiftly from road improvements to railway construction. This alternative was not very popular and against the better judgement of the colonial administration, for the German treasury was in no position to stand the required outlay. Another alternative considered was a railway line to be worked with mules, but the rinderpest did not respect any kind of four-footed traction, and this plan had to be discarded. The railway construction became the main priority for the next few years as the modern transport mode, but road building still continued, mainly to create important feeder connections to the expanding German colonial railway system. For instance, the "Bay Roads" were still important transport links until the completion of the first Namibian railway line, the "Staatsbahn" (state railway) between Swakopmund and Windhoek on 19 June 1902 .
In the State Archives in Windhoek a detailed study with the number 165 exists regarding the two "Bay Roads" from the Atlantic coast to Windhoek via Otjimbingwe and via Fahlgras, respectively. This road report was compiled by the "Premier-Lieutenant" Franke, "Bezirkshauptmann for Otjimbingwe" (regional commissioner) on 16 February 1898.
An official circular letter of 20 June 1898 from the German Imperial Governor, Friedrich von Lindequist, to all the "Bezirkshauptmannschaften" accentuated, however, the importance of continuing with the improvement of roads. He emphasised the fact that it is not appropriate to do a great deal of blasting and heavy earth haulage in road construction but rather to concentrate on debushing, widening and straightening of existing roads. Von Lindequist especially mentioned the roads from Okahandja to Omaruru and from Omaruru to Outjo. Another letter from the Commissioner for Finance of the German Administration in Windhoek of 25 June 1898 mentioned the funding of roads by road-levies and bottle-store license fees from 30 December 1895 and January 1896, respectively. This was the beginning of organised financing of road projects in Namibia .
Southern Bay Road to Angra Pequeña, 1896/97
Rehbock proposed a decisive improvement of transport links in 1898 in order to create a better economic basis for the "Schutzgebiet" (protectorate) and to reduce the extremely high freight costs which amounted to 1,20 to 1,50 Mark per ton-kilometre against only 0,02 Mark on the German Railways and even 0,01 Mark on the US Railways. The only way to change the unfavourable transport scene was to make a start with the building of narrow gauge railway lines and to improve the existing ox-wagon roads. During the end of the 19th century, Namibia's roads still remained in their original state, and very few improvements had been made at this stage, with the exception of some isolated distinct arterial roads from centres like Windhoek, Gibeon and Keetmanshoop to the Atlantic coast. The friction value on these roads, which existed to a large extent in name only, was very high, and consequently one ox was not able to pull more than a 100 to 150 kg payload. The average covered transport length amounted to only 20 km per day. The daily effectivity of one ox could be determined to 2 to 3 ton-kilometres and in the case of unladen return trips to 1,2 to 2 ton-kilometres. Due to the ineffective ox-wagon transport it was seriously considered to make use of load animals, like camels, for instance. Trials with camels in Namaland made by the firm Seidel and Mühle brought quite satisfactory results. An increase of effectivity in ox-wagon transport could only be expected with systematic improvements of the roads system. But under the economic realities of the final years of the 19th century, Rehbock did not see his way open to recommend the general improvement of the whole road network in existence but rather to concentrate on the improvement of isolated spots and to increase the construction tempo of narrow gauge railway lines .
A first Path Ordinance came into effect on 1 October 1898. This Roads Ordinance mentioned two classes of roads, i.e. public and private roads. The ordinance mainly dealt with outspan services like water and grazing. Each "Bezirkshauptmannschaft" had to proclaim all public roads and a proclamation list of all proclaimed, public roads to date had to be made known on January 1st of each consecutive year. No mention was made, however, of whose responsibility it would be to construct and maintain these Namibian roads.
In 1899 a feasibility study was carried out by the "Bezirkshauptmannschaft Windhoek" to improve the road from Windhoek in a southern direction through the Auas Mountains. Three alternatives were investigated, i.e. the construction of a new road for 2.100 m for an estimated price of 102.758,12 Mark, an alternative new road for a distance of 1.680 m for an estimated price of 29.737,37 Mark and the improvement of the existing track for an estimated price of 13.580,40 Mark. The German Governor, Theodor Leutwein, decided to accept alternative design No. 2 in a letter No. 8339 dated 13 December 1899, and praised the good work done by the Surveyor General but also stated that the design standard for this section of road appeared to be too high. In an official letter to all the "Bezirkshauptmannschaften" Leutwein warned against too high design standards in road construction, as it should be appropriate to African and not to European conditions. Leutwein mentioned that for these exorbitant road costs a full railway line could have been built. The construction of the Auas Mountain road was entrusted to the colonial "Schutztruppe" and to the police force in order to save funds. The works started in June 1899, and the final inspection took place in the presence of the German Imperial Governor, Leutwein, on 4 December 1899 .
3.2 THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE GERMAN ERA 1902 - 1915
The period from 1902 to the First World War was used to consolidate the roads system in order to achieve the colonial political and economic objectives. In May 1902 the survey office of the German Imperial Government in Windhoek issued a list of all road lengths in Namibia. 116 different roads were identified and surveyed. In this comprehensive study all surveys from military, official and private sources were summarised. The starting point for the surveys for the different parts was Swakopmund. The first section of these surveys dealt with the central, then the northern and finally the southern parts of Namibia .
The total distance of all roads surveyed at that time in Namibia revealed a distance of 18.826,03 km. Most of the road surveys were done quite accurately with the aid of the compass-distance-measuring method or the "tracheameter" method. Other distances, especially in remote areas, were established by means of horse-riding hours where one horse-riding-hour was determined as an average of 8 km. The accurate surveys were partly calculated to the second and third digits after the decimal point in kilometres. In case of different or contradictory measurements the arithmetical mean was accepted or, in case of doubt, the most reliable value. Even remote, difficult roads like the road from Outjo via Okahakahana and Oniipa in Owamboland and via Namakunde in Angola to the Kunene River with a distance of 487,79 km or the road from Outjo to Sesfontein via Kamanjab with a distance of 351,00 km were surveyed. In a letter from the "Kaiserliches Zollamt Swakopmund" (Imperial Customs's Office) with reference J 1381, dated 27 September 1909, it is stated that even the distance between Swakopmund and Lüderitzbucht along the Atlantic coast with a total distance of 486,00 km was measured. The majority of these surveys served as a basis for road proclamations according to the Path Ordinance from 15 May 1898 and later according to the more modern, updated new Road Ordinance No. 13 from 14 June 1912.
Troost Truck, Swakopmund, 1904
An official circular No. 5756 dated 12 August 1902, signed on behalf of the Imperial German Governor by Major von Estorff, gave instruction to all district offices to make a start on the erection of road signs on a systematic basis.
During the Great National Resistance War against the German Occupational Forces in 1904, the first two petrol-powered trucks made their appearances in Namibia. It was Lieutenant Karl Schmidt who saw the two trucks on 17 August 1904 in Okasise on the road between Okahandja and Wilhelmstal . In the same year the colonial administration in Windhoek issued a circular No. 13503, dated 25 November 1904, that all districts have to submit road reports including the estimated expenditures for road construction and maintenance.
The "Kaiserliche Distriktskommando Gobabis" announced by report No. 23, dated 9 February 1905, that no systematic road works had till then been undertaken except for the clearance of roads from obstacles like trees and shrubs in order to establish a minimum drainage of rain water from the road surface and to establish water points for the travelling public.
More activities were reported by the district office Windhoek in a letter No. J 3381, dated 22 February 1905. A total roads expenditure of 52.000 Mark for the financial year 1905 was estimated. Provision was made for a roads construction unit consisting of 25 men and for a roads supervisor as well as for building material. The following works were proposed:
Also the "Bezirkshauptmannschaft Grootfontein" established road building priorities in a letter K 381, dated 4 February 1905. This letter was signed by "Bezirksamtmann von Örtzen.
The district commissioner did not so much put his efforts into the improvement of existing and the construction of new roads but more into the establishment of water points because it was still the ox which served as traction mode, and not the mechanically driven motor car. He also mentioned that systematic road building in Namibia was not appropriate to the real requirements and the economic realities of the country. Each traffic mode were, as far as possible, to bear its own costs. Road improvements were in the mean time to concentrate on debushing, the removal of larger stones and the by-pass of pans which are filled with water in the rainy season. Major road fills and excavations as well as the surfacing of roads could not be justified as yet. Von Örtzen recommended the following road improvement projects:
1. Road: Grootfontein - Namutoni
Total costs for the four roads: Mark 29 000,-The "Bezirksamtmann" Gelshorn from Gibeon reported in a letter No. 76 of 24 July 1905, as follows:
Expenditure for one road building unit per day:
For oxen and wagon per day: Mark 20,-
The improvement of roads like the removal of stones and the construction of small fills amounted to 250 Mark per kilometre, for unit costs of 50 Mark and a production tempo of 200 m per day for a road width of between 8 and 10 m. It was, however, mentioned that road construction had been executed for 90 Mark per kilometre, as for instance on the road from Geitsabis to the main road Haribes - Packriem (4.000 Mark for 45 km). The costs for the road Breckhorn to Daweb were estimated at 2.350 Mark for a distance of 20 km.Karibib reported in a letter No. 1526, dated 18 September 1905, that the originally envisaged priority number one in the district, the road Karibib to Outjo, had become meaningless due to the progress of the construction of the "Otavi Railway Line". Other priorities in the district were identified as the roads Karibib - Friedrichsfelde - Johann Albrechtshöhe and Karibib - Otjimbingwe. For these two projects an amount of 1.400 Mark was estimated. It was also proposed to carry out the work with "Herero-Prisoners-of-War" (sic!).
In a letter No. 291 from the "Kaiserliche Bezirkshauptmannschaft Outjo" signed by "Hauptmann von Wangenheim" and dated 6 May 1905, the following was reported:
Roads in the district of Outjo were non-existent, and paths were created by the tracks of ox-wagons only. The only straight road sections existed between Palafontein and Outjo as well as between Aimab and Okakewa, but "the oxen did not like to travel on these straight roads because they developed quickly signs of exhaustion". It was again stressed that modern road construction methods could not be economically justified. For the time being, road construction had to be restricted to the removal of larger rock boulders and the by-passing of difficult sections as well as the establishment of water points.
The Namibian roads system for the year 1904 is well represented in the German war map, the "Kriegskarte von Deutsch-Südwestafrika" of July 1904, edited by P. Sprigade and M. Moisel and published by Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen) in Berlin. Appendix Table 3 at the end of this publication gives a list of the ox-wagon roads of this time which more or less is equivalent to the ox-wagon roads system on the war map. This roads network can roughly be compared with that of the Langhans' Map of 1894 with some additional extensions to the north-western parts of the Kaokoveld, the eastern parts of modern-day Bushmenland and the Eastern Caprivi Strip. Appendix Table 3 endeavours to show the approximate equivalent roads or parts of roads of the present-day Namibian roads system. The comparison between 1894 and 1904 shows clearly that the colonial roads network expanded with the increasing significance of German-Southwestafrica as a settler's colony where roads served the economic and strategic interests of the German settlers. It also has to be observed that at this stage most of the roads had already been proclaimed in a legal sense in terms of the Path Ordinance of 1 October 1898.
Since 1907 much effort was put into the installation of road signs in the whole "Schutzgebiet" (protectorate). In many official letters in the State Archives in Windhoek, it is reported that by 1912 the farm-areas of Namibia were well provided with direction road signs.
As far as the drainage of roads and the construction of road culverts and road bridges over larger rivers were concerned, nothing constructive for the period of the German colonial occupation can be reported. The only culverts constructed during this time were the culverts on the road through the Auas Mountains which were built in excellent natural stone bound masonry in 1899. The "Kaiserliche Bezirksamt Windhoek" reported in a letter No. 6292, dated 12 July 1906, that till then no experience had been gained in the crossing of rivers and streams with aid of simple drifts. An official note in the above letter stated that "due to high longitudinal slopes, rivers could only be bridged permanently with the aid of brick laid culverts and bridges".
Bridge construction in Namibia during the period before the First World War concentrated upon the many railway lines built during this time. These railway bridges were pre-fabricated steel bridges, imported from Germany and assembled "in-situ". The piers of these bridges were substantially built of cut stone. These railway steel bridges consisted generally of the deckplate girder type and were designed to carry an axle load of 6.500 kg. On the basis of these railway bridges, the "Staatssekretär des Reichs-Kolonialamtes" (state secretary of the Imperial Colonial Office) suggested in a letter No. B. II.902/13/15443, dated 18 April 1913, that the principle of pre-fabricated steel bridges were to be used also on roads. It was proposed to use steel bridges with various spans between 10 m and 50 m and with a width between the kerbs of 3,50 m and a free trafficable height of 4,00 m. The design live load for this bridge type was fixed with a uniformly distributed load of 400 kg/m2 as well as a standard design vehicle of 8.000 kg mass with a vertical wheel distance of 1,30 m and a 3,00 m wheel base on the most unfavourable position on the bridge deck. The following prices were quoted on 3 May 1913 ex " Beuchelt & CO, Grünberg in Schlesien": 31 Mark per 100 kg for spans between 10 and 20 m as well as 28,50 Mark for spans between 25 and 50 m .
The German, Paul Grätz, needed 630 days to cover a journey from Dar-es-Salaam to Swakopmund during 1907/08 with a "Special Mercedes car". 1909 the first passenger motor-car, a "Daimler-Benz", was imported for the Governor of German South West Africa .
From 1909/10 onwards it was possible to negotiate most of the unimproved roads in the central and, especially, in the southern parts of Namibia. The rocky or gravelly nature of the subgrade of such roads made them, with limitations, suitable for motorised traffic. This was possible deep into the Namib desert and to the edge of the Kalahari where the obstacle of the sand dunes hampered any such traffic. But even at the beginning of Namibia's motorised age most of the roads were unconstructed paths which had only been cleared from larger rocks and boulders. Main obstacles, not only for motor-cars but also for ox-wagons, were river drifts and the muddy regions in the north during the rainy seasons . Getting stuck at river crossings and in the `mud of the north were common sights until the 1960s when the systematic building of more modern roads began.
OX WAGON ROAD NETWORK: GERMAN SOUTH WEST AFRICA: 1909
On 14 June 1912 the first Roads Ordinance for Public Roads was published by the German Colonial Administration replacing an earlier Path Ordinance from the 18 May 1898, which had been mainly an "Outspan Ordinance". This new Roads Ordinance made provision for four classes of roads, i.e. district roads as arterial roads, connection roads as feeder roads to the district roads, town roads and private roads. The proclamation of all public roads like district and connection roads had to be effected by the "Bezirksamtmann" after having dealt with by the specific Districts Council.
A list of all proclaimed roads had to be published in the Official Gazette on the 1 April of each consecutive year.
Maintenance and construction of all public roads, except town roads, were the responsibility of the District Councils. The road width had to be determined by the District Councils but were normally established to 10 metres in the case of district roads. The maintenance included road signs and distance markers. Paragraph 5 of this Ordinance was of specific interest, because it had been laid down that individual persons benefiting from the establishment of public roads with public funds had to participate in the costs directly or indirectly by means of labour mobilisation. This Roads Ordinance came into effect on 1 October 1912.
Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War modern road construction techniques were under consideration by the German Administration. Even the bituminous treatment of roads was proposed in a letter from the "Continentale Öl-Besprengungs and Strassenteerungs Gesellschaft Berlin", dated 9 October 1913, to the Imperial Government in Windhoek. Another innovative proposal to improve the roads in Namibia was made by the firm "Brenner & Co., Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Eisenbahn- and Tiefbaugesellschaft" in a letter dated 17 December 1913. The proposal was to use pre-fabricated wagon-tracks made from steel to establish a "strip-road type" or a "spoorbaan type road" which was suggested as "Namibia-Adapted-Technology" nearly seventy years after this first proposal in 1913.
At the end of the year 1914 the following district roads were proclaimed in terms of the Roads Ordinance 1912 and advertised in the Official Gazette for German South West Africa:
|In addition to this system of arterial roads hundreds of connection roads were proclaimed in 1914. (See Appendix Table 3). This roads network was still established mainly for the ox-wagon, because at the threshold of the First World War only five motor vehicles existed in Namibia. While the ox-wagon still determined the road life during the German colonial era, the advent of the South African troops in 1915 resulted in an increasing deployment of motor driven vehicles in Namibia. The invading South African Army was already remarkably well motorised in comparison with the small German " Schutztruppe". Consequently, it has to be noted that the motorising age started with the beginning of the South African epoch in Namibia. It may also be noted that the transport system of the German era clearly served the interests of its colonial builders rather than those of the indigenes of Namibia. What therefore evolved, was not a road network geared to territorial integration, but a transport structure with an emphasis upon east-west traffic links at the expense of the north-south road connections to the Union of South Africa, linking administrative and military centres, points of resource extraction, mainly mines, and settler farming centres to the ports of Swakopmund and Lüderitzbucht. These ports were crucial nodes in this transport network, which consisted mainly of railway lines and to a lesser extent of an effective roads system, the nodes through which all colonial exports to and imports from Germany passed until the defeat of the German occupational forces through the invading South African Army.|