|4. THE HISTORY OF ROADS IN THE SOUTH
4.1 PHASE ONE FROM 1915 TO 1937
The ultimate colonial transport objectives have remained the same under the South African control from 1915 up to 1990 on the Independence of the Republic of Namibia, despite the provisions of the League of Nations Mandate and the subsequent requirements of the United Nations Trusteeship Committee and the Council for Namibia. The only change in the German pattern proved to be even more disadvantageous for Namibia, because the transport orientation shifted from a more east-west to a South African orientated north-south direction.
After the First World War the League of Nations entrusted the Mandate over Namibia to the Union of South Africa on 17 December 1920. The German Roads Ordinance of 1912 was duly replaced by a South African one in 1923. This "Roads and Outspans Proclamation No. 30 of 1923" was signed by "His Honour Gijsbert Reitz Hofmeyr, a companion of the most distinguished order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Administrator of South West Africa" on 15 October 1923. This Ordinance assigned the following meanings to the different road classes:
"'public road' shall mean:
The Road from Windhoek to Kapps Farm, 1922
This Ordinance also dealt with the question of compensating private landowners for the usage of road construction and maintenance materials which could be removed from private ground without payment as long as these materials were used for the construction and maintenance of proclaimed roads. This was a new principle because in the German Roads Ordinance from 1912 no such provision had been made. This principle has been retained in all Namibian Road Ordinances until the present day.
In the reports to the League of Nations  no mention is made of roads until the year 1925, when an amount of R 766,44 was provided for under the Public Works Vote .
A new Roads Ordinance 15/1927 made provision for the establishment of Roads Boards in each Magisterial District of Namibia. Members of the Board were elected by registered owners of landed property in the district, that is to say, only white persons had any voting rights. Each Board was entrusted with the construction and maintenance of public roads within its Magisterial District, except in areas under the control of urban local authorities, which were vested with similar powers in their respective areas. The Boards had the power to impose a road tax on all landed property in their areas. This tax was based upon the extend of the land.
The tax was levied at the discretion of the Board and usually ranged from R 0,05 to R 0,10 per hectare. This rate was not sufficient to pay for all the road construction and maintenance requirements, and the Legislative Assembly of the - all white - Administration for South West Africa, therefore imposed a wheel tax of R 0,75 per wheel per annum upon all vehicles in Namibia. This revenue must in accordance with the law be applied to roads in the district in which the tax was collected. The areas outside the so-called white districts of Namibia were thus not included in this roads tax system.
In addition to this, the Administration granted a subsidy not exceeding R 3,00 for every R 1,00 spent by the Roads Boards on main roads. The Administration's subsidy during the financial year 1926/27 amounted to just over R 24.000. In the report of the mandatory power to the League of Nations for the year 1927 it was further stated that: "The Boards have done splendid work and, as a result of the improvement of the roads, motor transport is everywhere replacing animal transport and the opening up and the development of the country is being enormously expedited." Above report continued to state that "nobody should expect that South West Africa's roads system would be the best in the world because the character of the country would be against the construction of first class roads. Responsible for this would be an abundance of mica schist and sand and the scarcity of good road building materials. In Owamboland, for instance, not a single stone could be encountered, except in the vicinity of the Kunene River. The building of a modern highway from the north to the south of the territory would cost hundred thousands of pound sterling, which the administration never could afford to spend".
It is therefore apparent that the Roads Boards, under the chairmanship of the local magistrate, were responsible for the collection of taxes and the repair and maintenance of roads within their respective districts from revenue collected by them. In 1930, an amount of approx. R 25 was made available to each magistrate to enable the worst causeways over rivers and streams to be repaired. In cases of serious wash-aways on major roads additional funds were granted to the Roads Boards to effect urgent repairs of river drifts damaged by excessive floods.
Apparently, arrangements also existed between the chairmen of the Roads Boards and certain "white" farmers whereby the roads across their farms were kept in order by granting nominal remuneration by the Board.
The first Road Motor Transport Service of the South African Railways and Harbours was also established during this period and was instituted between Mariental and Stampriet and Mariental and Aranos on 1 February 1927. The heavy transport vehicles used put an extra stress on the maintenance of public roads. They also contributed to the further expansion of the Namibian roads system, giving an indication of where new roads were required relative to the economic growth, but solely in the interest of the white population group. The next "R.M.T." services were instituted between Mariental and Maltahöhe on 1 April 1928, Mariental and Lidfontein on 13 December 1928, followed by the Windhoek to Dordabis service on the 1 May 1930, and Omitara to Otjinene as well as Omitara to Okozondana services on 8 December 1930 .
The first tractor drawn grader was purchased during the financial year 1932/33 by the Works Branch of the Administration for the maintenance of Namibian roads. In 1932 two maintenance units were brought into being with the help of two second-hand lorries, a 5 ton "Federal" and a 2 ton " Reo" in the Windhoek district. The first light motor grader, a Galion, was purchased in 1936. Relief work for needy persons during the drought and depression of 1930/33 was provided by the South West Administration, and during 1932 to 1933 some 250 to 300 "white" relief workers were employed on roads .
At this stage the maintenance and repair of roads were the responsibility of the Works Branch of the South West Africa Administration. The exact distances of main and district roads in existence at this stage are not recorded. The above position prevailed in Namibia up to about 1937, and this marks the end of the first phase .
4.2 PHASE TWO FROM 1937 TO 1945
Not much of a development has taken place in Namibia in the years 1930 to 1934 due to the world economic depression and a severe drought which was, however, broken by an extraordinary good rainy season - the best so far recorded in the history of Namibia - in 1934. It was not until 1937 that it was reported :
Road to Goanikontes, 1946
Section 6(e), Chapter II of Ordinance No. 7 of 1937, provided that the Administrator of South West Africa shall institute a Central Roads Board, whose functions powers and duties were laid down by Government Notice No. 8 of 1938, and whose duties should be :
"It shall be the function and duty of the Board to advise the Administrator on all such matters relating to the carrying out of the provisions of the Ordinance and the furtherance of the objects thereof, as may be referred to it by the Chairman thereof, and on all such matters as may be specially referred to it by the Administrator."
Until the year 1937 no specific vote existed for road building and it was not until Ordinance 7 of 1937 was passed that specific amounts were voted for specific works. The amounts accruing to and expended from the Roads Fund from 1937/38 to 1945/46 showed a steady increase from approx. R 125.000 to approx. R 250.000. Discrepancies between accrued and expended amounts have been made up from the Territorial Development and Reserve Fund. In fact, more has been spent on roads than the amount of taxes that has been especially levied for road construction and maintenance. Nevertheless, the expenditure during the 1937/45 phase remained fairly constant, showing a small increase in 1945 and indicating a more or less dormant period with very little expansion and mainly concentrating on the maintenance of roads. It was not until 1945, after the end of the Second World War, that a more extensive program could be carried out.
In 1937 road building activities were the responsibility of the Works Branch of the Administration using its own personnel. In 1937 only a " Field Assistant-in-charge" existed, a post which was changed to a Superintendent of Roads in September 1945. During 1938 the Roads Section of the Works Branch moved to new premises on the same location where the present Department of Transport of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication of the Republic of Namibia has been established. The workshops of the Irrigation Section of the Works Branch were taken over for the repairs of vehicles and road building machinery, and the necessary mechanics were appointed during this year .
Apart from the above mentioned Superintendent of Roads and his staff of four permanent officials in Windhoek, all the field personnel, i.e. plant operators and labourers, were employed on a temporary basis. During 1945 the posts of Inspector of Roads and three Assistant-Inspectors were also created while the first Civil Engineer, an Assistant-Engineer, undertook the design of bridges and the drawing up of plans. All these posts were filled by transfers from or in response to press advertisements in South Africa.
Until 1945 very few bridges and other structures were built. It proved expedient to concentrate on the provision of concrete slabs and low-level bridges over rivers that were the longest flowing during the rainy seasons, and in most cases low-level bridges sufficed. The structures built up to 1945 were :
High Level Bridges -
In 1937/38 the first two Caterpillar II motor graders were purchased as well as a motor driven 3 wheel roller. An additional Caterpillar II grader was purchased in 1939. By 1940, four heavy motor graders, one crawler tractor, one 5/8 cub.yds. truck mounted loader, several tractors towing 3 ton drawn graders and a number of trucks were in operation.
By the end of 1945, the following machines were on hand and this reflects the start of rapidly expanding road constructing and maintenance activities since 1945 :Light trucks - 12
Flat trucks - 26
Tip trucks - 33
130 gallons water trailers - 33
600 gallons water trailers - 4
Trailers - 19
Drawn graders - 14
Motor graders - 6
Wheel tractors - 19
Crawler tractors - 1
Sheep foot rollers - 3
Centrifugal pumps - 4
Concrete mixers - 3
5/8 cub.yds. truck mounted loader - 1
Diesel rollers - 3
4 cub.yds. scrapers - 1
The "Report of the Roads Construction Commission 1950", paragraph 143, reads as follows :"Only after the Second World War have serious attempts been made to organise a Roads Department so that roads can be planned, improved and built more efficiently, and that a more regular system of maintenance can be introduced."
The war period was not a very active period in the development of Namibia's roads system. In this phase the following Road Transport Services of the South African Railways and Harbours have been instituted:
In 1945 the Roads organisation of the Administration's Works Branch consisted of the following construction and maintenance units:
2 Bridge Construction Units
4.3 PHASE THREE FROM 1945 TO 1952
After the Second World War the South African " Public Service Commission" for the first time made available professional and technical personnel to the Works Branch of the Administration for South West Africa. This enabled detailed surveys, location and design of bridges, and marked the beginning of programmed road building activities in Namibia.
This time also heralds the beginning of a boom period with expansion in the karakul, mining and building as well as fishing industries. At this time blocks of state-owned " Crown Land" were being cut up into farms and were being allocated to mainly white ex-soldiers of the South African Army. These newly developed areas were situated mainly in the Khomas Hochland and in the Omatako as well as in the Namib regions. The Khomas Hochland, being a particularly rugged and mountainous area, was formerly served only by the most primitive rocky tracks. From 1946 one of the six road construction units was allocated to provide a road through the Khomas Hochland which also linked Windhoek directly with Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast. This construction of main road 52 involved heavy mountain-pass work .
Farms were also allocated in the district of Gobabis which falls within the Kalahari region with heavy, deep sand where road construction provides its own peculiar problems. Another geologically harsh area was the north-western region of Namibia, the " Kaross Block", which was also divided up into farms which in due course extended southwards to the Ugab River. In these days the small district town of Welwitschia, subsequently renamed to the former Khorixas, district capital of Damaraland, was established. By the end of the 1940s these areas had been sufficiently well served by roads and a network of South African Railway Road Motor Transport Services.
It is of interest to quote from the Report for 1946 of the Government of the Union of South Africa to the Council of the League of Nations concerning the roads administration of Namibia :
In May 1946 the first two roads engineers were appointed in the Roads Section of the Works Branch of the Administration (Günther Weder (civil) and Markus Loteryman (mechanical)). In all, the technical staff of the Roads Section consisted of three engineers, all stationed in Windhoek, while the districts were controlled by two road inspectors and three assistant road inspectors of the Works Branch of the Administration who were stationed at Grootfontein, Otjiwarongo, Windhoek, Mariental and Keetmanshoop. The field staff consisted of:
3 Bridge Construction Units
These units consisted of "147 white and 796 non-white" employees. During the financial year 1946/47 an amount of R 150.000 was appropriated from the Territorial Development and Reserve Fund to the Roads Fund and the estimated expenditure under the latter was R 320.000. In addition to road construction and maintenance 340 miles of the Botswana border were cleared during 1947 to facilitate patrols, to control the spread of foot and mouth disease and combat grass and bush fires. No expenditure figures in this regard are on record, however. The most important road construction job in 1946 was the building of the first section of a main road into the Khomas Hochland, and a length of 68 miles had been completed. In the same year, grader units maintained 11.961 miles of graded roads.
In spite of an amount of R 615.000 spent out of the Roads Fund in 1950, there were still so many shortcomings in the roads system of Namibia that the Executive Committee appointed a commission to look into this matter. The report of the " Roads Construction Commission 1950" recommended inter alia :
In subsequent legislation, outspans were done away with and the road reserve width was fixed at 60 metres. The Commission also went into the question of bridge construction and drainage of roads, as can be seen from the following remarks:
On the subject on surfaced roads the Commission recommended as follows:
The Commission also recommended the establishment of a soils laboratory for the testing of soils, gravel and stone types for the purpose of road construction. On gravel roads they recommended one motor grader for every hundred miles on main roads. The Commission's Report was accepted with certain amendments by the Executive Committee of the Legislative Assembly of South West Africa by Minute No. 619 of 20 December 1950. The design and construction of bridges during the period 1946-1951 were on the increase and the following structures were erected during this period:
High Level Bridges 10
3.229 (5.195 km)
Such was the state of the roads organisation before a separate Roads Department was established on 1 June 1951. On 9 January 1952 the first "Chief Roads Engineer" (M. Loopuyt) assumed his duty at the newly created Roads Department and began a new chapter in the history of roads in Namibia.
The establishment of the Roads Department as a separate branch of the SWA Administration marked an important turning point in the development of Namibia and formed the framework for what was to become the former Administration's and later Central Authority's of Namibia biggest single division, in terms of the overall budget. As its prime task, it had to plan, construct and maintain a roads system which in 1952 barely was existent, to serve a country of 824.269 km2 with a total population of only approx. 450.000 in 1953 (Current estimated population (1995): 1.520.000, last census in 1991 resulted in 1.455.396 and included Walvis Bay).
To add to the difficulties, large areas of Namibia are desert or semi-desert with their own peculiar ground formations and many other natural obstacles which are unique only to this country and which have a marked influence on the planning and building of roads. To top it all, the Department of Transport was, and still is, faced with an acute shortage of highly skilled labour, technical and professional staff.
That Namibia's unique "salt gravel roads" came into being in the late forties happened almost by chance. Heavy trucks bringing salt blocks from the salt mines north of Swakopmund to Namibia's harbour town, Walvis Bay, used the poor tracks along the Atlantic coast. The sandy desert sections could be crossed only with great difficulties, and it was duly decided to repair the tracks with the freely available salt/clay material under supervision of the Roads Branch of the SWA Administration. No materials specification for this unique gravel mixture existed at the time, but the unsaturated rejected low-salt content material from the salt mines and salt pans north of Swakopmund was placed on the road by trial and error, distributed and levelled by hand and then traffic-compacted by the same trucks which caused the damage. In many cases, during their empty return trips, these trucks were used to haul some of the salt-concentrate. The new innovative road building and maintenance method resulted in a road type which was dust-free and looked nearly as a black-top road, long time before the first bitumen-paved roads came into being in Namibia. The first salt gravel roads were authenticated by Siegfried Engels, one of the oldest still living Namibian " Padmakers" (road builders). Engels was one of the last eyewitnesses of a memorable era of road building in Namibia when, for instance, it was normal practice to improve the dangerous crossing of the Omaruru River north of Hentiesbay by paving the riverbed with "sealskins" to get the traffic across.
During the 1950s the newly created "Salt Maintenance Unit SMU 1" began serious construction of a high standard salt-road from Walvis Bay in a northerly direction. In the early 1960s the "SMU 1" reached a point just north of Cape Cross at 140 km (Mile 87) north of Swakopmund. Simultaneously, the "salt-road-technique" was also used to build the first section of the trunk road 2/2 from Swakopmund in an inland direction towards Usakos, which proved to be a successful experiment as long as the salt-gravel method was applied in the moist mist-belt region of the Atlantic coast. At the end of the 1960s a point 209 km north of Swakopmund (Mile 130) at the Ugab river mouth was reached.
4.4 PHASE FOUR FROM 1952 TO 1965
On the 13 June 1953 a new "Roads Ordinance and Road Traffic Signs Ordinance" was promulgated. This Ordinance made provision for four classes of roads: trunk, main, district and public roads. Trunk roads are arterial roads forming part of the roads system connecting Namibia as a whole with neighbouring countries. Main roads are important roads connecting important centres within Namibia. District roads are feeder roads carrying a reasonable amount of traffic which largely serve the - mainly white - farming area and provide access to the arterial and main roads system of the country. Public roads are proclaimed roads but their construction and maintenance are not generally undertaken at the expense of the government.
The Central Roads Board was duly abolished and the new ordinance introduced a system of separate Roads Boards in each magisterial district consisting of the magistrate as chairman and four other members from the particular district and who were appointed by the South African Administrator. These Roads Boards "shall assist and advise the Administrator on all matters relating to public roads within its district, obtain and transmit all information he may require in connection with the Administration of this Ordinance or the regulations thereunder and generally carry out all such functions as the Administrator may from time to time assign to it". 
Under the provision of Ordinance 17 of 1953 1.877 miles of trunk roads, 4.571 miles of main roads, 8.958 miles of district roads as well as 15.270 miles of public roads (now farm roads) were proclaimed between 1953 and 1955.
Road Signs, approximately 1960
In April and May 1956 the Public Service Commission of the Union of South Africa carried out a further inspection resulting in a new permanent personnel establishment of the Roads Department: The personnel of the Department was increased from the former total of 58 to the following 137 posts:
The regional engineer's structure consisting of three regions Keetmanshoop, Windhoek and Otjiwarongo was still retained but the former eight road inspectorates were increased to twelve. The revenue accruing to the Roads Fund increased between 1952 and 1956 from R 194.422 to R 529.214, while expenditure in the same period increased nearly threefold from R 877.260 to R 2.131.928. At the same time the number of vehicles in Namibia increased from 13.870 to 20.512 vehicles.
At the end of 1956 the following units were in operation :
Trunk Roads 1.902 (3.060 km)
During the period 1952 to 1955 the following work was done for the South African Department of Bantu Affairs:
Aerodrome Rundu R
By Executive Committee Resolution No. 1003 of 7 September 1961 it was decided to proclaim and build the following roads as district roads to generally improve the road infrastructure in Owamboland :
Ondangwa - Okatana dam (later Oshakati) - Oshikuku -
Towards the end of 1953 the testing of materials for gravel roads, and two years later, for surfaced roads started at the Central Laboratory. During this period between 1952 and 1956 the following major drainage structures were built:High Level Bridges 16
Low Level Bridges 2
Concrete Slabs 11 For the first time use has been made of a newly developed simple, standardised bridge type with a 28 feet span.
By Executive Committee Minute No. 256 of 22 February 1956 it was approved that two construction units be equipped, including the conversion of the existing first unit, to start the construction of the first surfaced roads in Namibia. The building of a double lane surfaced road from Windhoek firstly to Brakwater, secondly to Aris and thirdly to Kapp's Farm was to be set as a target. Additional it was resolved by Executive Committee Minute No. 1156 of 17 October 1957 that one, already built trunk road in the north, i.e. the Otavi - Tsumeb road (trunk road 1/9) and another, an entirely new one in the south, from Keetmanshoop in a northern direction for approximately thirty miles (trunk road 1/3), be given out under contract for surfacing. For the first time the use was made of the services of private consulting engineers for the planning, design and supervision of the execution of the above mentioned contract works. Two South African consulting engineer firms were duly entrusted with the above mentioned services for the Otavi - Tsumeb, the Keetmanshoop - Wasser and the Windhoek - Aris trunk roads.
A proposed long term policy to surface 2.000 miles of trunk roads was accepted in principle by the Executive Committee by Resolution No. 670 on 16 July 1958. It was suggested to provide the whole Namibian trunk road system with a 20 feet wide bitumen surface, and the cost in those days for 2.000 miles were estimated at R 60 million.
By the end of the 1959/60 financial year there were a total of 60,7 miles of completed surfaced roads, made up as follows :
Trunk Road 1/4 Mariental - Rehoboth 4,5 miles ( 7,2 km)
The acceptance of many of the recommendations regarding road construction set out in the Report of the Odendaal Commission resulted in a considerable speeding up of the tempo of surfaced roads construction, again mainly dictated by white interests . Also the tempo of the regravelling of existing gravel roads increased considerably. From the financial year 1957/58 to 1964/65 the mileages of gravel road construction increased from 188 miles to 682 miles.
During 1965 the following road construction contracts were in preparation by private Consulting Engineers to be let at the end of 1965:
Trunk Roads 2/1, 2/2 and Main Road 36: Trekkopje - Swakopmund - Walvis Bay - Rooikop
Due to the continued expansion of the Roads Department at this time, new accommodation had to be built all over Namibia. A start was made with the erection of a new roads depot at Karasburg during 1951/52, followed by Usakos in 1956/57. In 1957/58 a start was also made on a new office complex for the head office and the central workshop and stores in Windhoek. In 1959/60 depots were erected at the following places:
Bethany, Maltahöhe, Outjo and Okahandja, followed by Grootfontein, Tsumeb, Otjiwarongo, Mariental and Gobabis in 1964/65.
Following a new inspection by the " Public Service Commission" of South Africa in 1959 and the Organisation and Methods Section of the Administration for South West Africa during 1963 it was decided to expand the organisation of the Roads Department further. This expansion resulted in a new personnel establishment of 258 civil servants, including 44 engineers, at the head office in Windhoek. The increase in personnel resulted also in the necessity of constructing further new office buildings in Windhoek and new Regional Engineer's offices at Keetmanshoop, Otjiwarongo and Grootfontein.
During 1962 a new Roads Ordinance No. 28 dated 5 July 1962 was created. This Ordinance 28 of 1962 was developed for the amendment and consolidation of all existing territorial laws and ordinances as well as amendments on roads and for the arrangement of related matters. At the end of the financial year 1964/65 the total mileage of proclaimed roads was 37.112 miles of which 20.651 miles were trunk, main and district roads to be regularly maintained by the Roads Department. In the same year the Road Motor Transport Service of the South African Railways and Harbours had also increased to 5.484 route miles. The following bridges were constructed between 1957 and 1965:
High Level Bridges 98 bringing them
to a total of 126
Maintenance Grader Units 112
Maintenance Grader Units 5
4.5 PHASE FIVE FROM 1965 TO 1987
The period from 1965 to date can be characterised by the consolidation and uplifting of Namibia's roads network to one of the finest in Africa. However, one of its striking features is the different status in quantity and quality of its roads system between the so-called modern areas in the southern and central parts and the densely populated and more traditional parts in the north. This phase was highlighted by the surfacing of a large portion of all arterial roads (most of the trunk roads and some main roads, but very few district roads), the creation of high-standard, all-weather gravel roads and many more high-water structures. In 1952, Namibia had just over 10.000 km of trunk and main roads. There were no surfaced roads and very few suitable bridges. Since that time a remarkable development has taken place. The length of proclaimed trunk, main and district roads, the three roads classifications for which the state is responsible as far as construction and maintenance are concerned, has risen between 1952 and 1986 from a little more than 10.000 km to 41.572 km. This development is pictured in tables below:
TABLE 1 STATUS OF NATIONAL ROADS: ODENDAAL PLAN
TABLE 2 NAMIBIA: ROAD NETWORK BY ROAD CATEGORIES (km)
TABLE 3 NAMIBIA: THE ROADS SYSTEM ON A DISTRICT BASIS, 1986