5. CONCLUSION TO THE HISTORY OF ROADS IN NAMIBIA

 

The foregoing study dealt with the history of roads in Namibia. Due to the fact that this topic was never investigated in a systematic way so far, it is not surprising that some new findings have been established. For instance, it was a sensational discovery that archaeological evidence has determined that Namibian indigenes built the first pathway around 1250 A.D. The evaluation of transport networks in the 19th and early 20th century revealed that it was established early that short east-west road connections are much more in the infrastructural interest of Namibia than north-south connections directed towards South Africa. The research regarding the early ox-wagon roads resulted in some important findings of identities of places, which were no longer known or had been forgotten. For instance, these research efforts led to the discovery of the oldest Namibian urban settlement, ||Khauxa!nas - Schans Vlakte, east of the Great Karas Mountains, which was built by one of the Nama communities at the turn of the 18th century. This historical find resulted in the identification of the first systematic building structures in an engineering sense in the history of the country [109].

The investigations for the old ox wagon roads of the last two hundred years or so, also revealed the fact that Alexander's "Robber Henrick's Place" or Ridsdale's Klip Fontein are to be found in the ancient stone ruins on the farm Narudas at the eastern edge of the Great Karas Mountains, and that they represent the forgotten main settlement of the ||Hawoben during the 1830s and 1840s [110]. The identity of another Nama settlement, Kai Gurub, which was also lost, has been established. Another important finding showed that it were Namibian indigenes and not only Europeans who initiated and built the first roads in the country. It has also been proved that the will of Namibian indigenes to initiate such roads was destroyed with the coming of the colonial powers. Their will to continue road building was reduced and then eliminated by the growing colonial control and the fact that many of the old Namibian transport routes and trade flows associated with them were inimical to the new colonial objectives of firstly the Germans and later the South Africans. The historical investigations led to the conclusion that, as from the middle of the 19th century, roads increasingly served the economic and strategic interests of the white trader/missionary alliance and henceforth created the basis for the subsequent colonial status of Namibia.

In conclusion to this investigation it has to be stated that the Namibian roads history began as early as the 13th century when Namibian nomadic communities built the first pathway in the central Namib Desert. This history was continued with the entering of European adventurers and Orlam groups into Namibia at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. Fairly rapidly, a process of fundamental change took place under the Nama-speaking indigenes of Namibia's south. This change occurred parallel with the advent of the first established, still very rough ox-wagon roads, which were initiated by the Orlams and the first European missionaries but built by the indigenous population. With the arrival of more European missionaries, traders, hunters and adventurers more roads came into existence. As early as in the 1860s, almost one quarter of a century before the official annexation of Namibia by the German Empire, the major functions of control over this country were switched to the European traders and missionaries, facilitated by an ever increasing network of adequate ox-wagon roads [111].

For the Namibian indigenes the colonial era did not begin with the year 1884. Namibian history teaches us that through forms of social organisation, imposed by invading Orlams on the original Nama inhabitants, the political, economic and social controls slipped from these people's hands. When the power of the Orlams and their Nama associates were broken by a European trader/missionary alliance, this marked the final stages of political and economic independence for the inhabitants of Namibia. It also marked the end of any road building initiatives by Namibian indigenes when the colonial structures destroyed the will of the Namibian people to pursue such activities further.

With the beginning of the German epoch this process of dispossessing the indigenous inhabitants of Namibia of their human and political rights as well as of their access to the economic resources of the country worsened. The road developments in this era were clearly geared to serve the interests of the colonial power only. Beneficial developments were the establishment of more east-west road links towards the harbours on the Atlantic coast in order to make Namibia more independent of neighbouring South Africa. Also beneficial were many systematic surveys and proclamations as well as efforts to plan Namibia's roads system during this time. The actual construction of roads was limited in scope and still dictated by the parameters of the rugged ox-wagon.

For very obvious reasons, the South African colonial power ignored any road developments in Namibia before 1915, or any such developments, which did take place were at least completely disregarded by them [112].

In fact, when South Africa had taken over from Germany, the colonial situation remained the same with the aggravating addition that the concentration on north-south roads to connect Namibia solely with South Africa hurt the interests of the Namibian inhabitants even further. This is also true regarding the development of a network of modern roads purely for the political, economic and social interests of the mandatory power and of the white population group in Namibia. This situation of domination, even as far as the development of the Namibian roads system is concerned, came only to an end on 21 March 1990.

The history of Namibian roads clearly proves that up to the date of independence day, roads were built by colonial powers of different origin to serve their interests and motives. Even one of the first road builders in Namibia, the Orlams, were only partly of European descent, but even they were invaders and acted, as their successors have done, purely in their own interests and not in that of the Namibians. It has also to be understood that all written history to date has mainly been supplied by colonising and evangelising Europeans and not by Namibians themselves. The history of Namibian roads has been established from documentations which were produced from the perspective of a European position of interest and not from that of a history as experienced by the suffering Namibian indigenes. This is also valid for the history of roads in Namibia which to date has never been written for the sole purpose of serving the interests of the people. Aime Cesaire summarises this pre-colonial situation, "before the Whites came" [113]:

"But I am speaking about societies which have been disposed of, about cultures trampled underfoot, undermined institutions, confiscated land, about murdered religions, destroyed art and about exceptional potentialities which have been wasted. Facts like statistics, mileages of railways, roads and canals are flung into my teeth. But I am speaking about the thousands of sacrificed humans for the sake of constructing the railway line from the Congo to the ocean. .. . I am speaking about the millions of people who have been deprived of their gods, their soil, their customs, their life, life itself, their dances and their wisdom. I am speaking about the millions of people who have been skilfully geared to fear and trembling, to paying obeisance, to desperation and submissiveness. .. . But I am also speaking about natural economic structures, about harmonic, viable and appropriate structures for the indigenes which have been wilfully destroyed, about chronic malnutrition, about agricultural developments which solely served the interests of the monopolies, about the exhaustion of resources and the despoiling of raw materials."

After independence at long last has been achieved the future development of roads ought to be pursued in the sole interest of the inhabitants of Namibia. Namibian roads will no longer be planned and built mainly to satisfy the economic and strategic interests of a colonial power, but to improve the life circumstances of those people who have been here before the first Europeans arrived.

 

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

 

A.D. Anno Domini
BRMG Berichte der Rheinischen Missionsgesellschaft
CA Cape Archives Depot
CPA Cape Provincial Administration
DR District Road
ECA Economic Commission for Africa
ELC Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (South)
EX.CO. Executive Committee of SWA Administration
FR Farm Road
IDC Independent Development Country
LMS London Missionary Society
MR Main Road
OAU Organisation for African Unity
Quellen Quellen zur Geschichte Südwestafrikas
R (South African Currency) Rand which was used until 1993 in Namibia
RMS Rhenish Mission Society
RMT Road Motor Transport Service
RSA Republic of South Africa
SAR&H South African Railways and Harbours
SATS South African Transport Services
SWA South West Africa
SWAPO South West Africa Peoples Organisation
TR Trunk Road
UNIN UNO Institute for Namibia (Lusaka)
UNO United Nations Organisation
WMN Wesleyan Missionary Notices
ZBU Records of the Central Bureau of the "Kaiserliche Gouvernement"
in German South West Africa

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