2  DEVELOPMENT OF A ROADS SYSTEM 1965 TO DATE

2.1  PLANNING TO DATE

As basis for the thesis the present roads situation in Namibia will be critically dealt with in order to understand the factors which lead to the un-optimised and unbalanced status-quo. This evaluation will be supported by quantitative roads statistics and their analyses.

The story of the roads division of the Department of Transport within the framework of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication of the Republic of Namibia is a story of the creation and development of one of Namibia's biggest and most vital assets - its roads system. Roads are a prerequisite to progress. The prosperity, welfare and socio-economic development of all inhabitants and the success of the country can be accurately measured in terms of the quality and quantity of the roads that will serve it. Compared to other African countries and seen in relation to the small population and the large size of the country, Namibia possesses an exceptionally well developed but unbalanced roads infrastructure. This comprehensiveness of the development of a roads system is all the more remarkable since the long distances, the wide dispersal of the population, the lack of professional and other personnel and the numerous natural obstacles make the construction and maintenance of roads an expensive undertaking.

But it is also very evident that from the middle of the 19th century roads were developed solely in the interest of the different colonial powers in Namibia. It were the missionary/trader alliance since the 1850's, later the German and since the First World War the South African colonial powers who were the main beneficiaries of any road building activities. The history of Namibian roads can be divided into the precolonial era from approximately 1250 A.D. for which time the first archaeological evidence for human made transport routes exists to 1884 when the German colonial power was established. This period can be subdivided into four eras: firstly the prehistoric era from ca 1250 to ca 1770, secondly the era of the Orlams and the first Europeans from ca 1770 to 1840, thirdly the era of Jonker Afrikaner from ca 1840 to ca 1860 and finally the pre-German era from ca 1860 to 1884. The period of German administration from 1884 to 1915 can be subdivided into two sections: the initial (1884-1896) and the consolidation (1896-1915) eras of the German occupation. The South African era can be sub-divided into five periods: firstly from 1915 to 1937 (taking over of roads by the SWA Administration's Works Branch), secondly from 1937 to 1945 (appointment of first professional staff), thirdly from 1945 to 1952 (establishment of a separate Roads Department), and then from 1952 to 1965 (beginning of the modern expansion of the Namibian roads system) and finally the period of the recent roads developments to the date of independence of the Republic of Namibia on 21 March 1990 [1].

 

The different functions of transport infrastructure in a colonial environment can be shown as follows [2]:

- To expedite the interests of the colonial masters to exploit the resources of a colonialised country;

- To support the military-strategic objectives of the colonial power;

- To guarantee the normal conditions of life to the colonial society and their beneficiaries.

The consequence of these colonial objectives can be clearly demonstrated by the example of Namibia before independence [92]:

- The confinement of infrastructure to very specific areas as dictated by the economic and strategic demands of the colonial power. Other areas which were not in accordance with these principles were grossly neglected;

- The territorial concentration of infrastructure to limited areas only;

- The infrastructure was developed mainly in areas of the larger cities and resource-producing centres. Vast areas of the colony were not made accessible at all by any infrastructural means like roads or completely underdeveloped.

The modern time of Namibia's roads system began with the advent of paved roads at the end of 1955 when it was decided by the Executive Committee Resolution No. 1298 that a start be made with the bitumenizing of roads and that the Chief Roads Engineer of the Roads Department be requested to draw up a program which would indicate the costs involved in maintaining one or two units for the paving of roads [3].

The beginning of the 1960's saw the advent of the South-Africa sponsored " Odendaal Plan" [4]. The political objective of this development plan was the creation of independent "Bantustans", homelands for different ethnic communities, following the South African principles. In order to fulfill the aims of this it was necessary to expedite the building of a more developed physical infrastructure. This creation of a more advanced roads system in Namibia was still coined by above mentioned colonial ideas. This can be proved by the distribution of road construction and maintenance units between the "white" and the "homeland" ( Owamboland with more than 50% of Namibia's total population) sectors for the year 1965:

"White Sector" Units:

Maintenance Grader Units     112
Light Maintenance Units           7
Sandspoor Units                      8
Re-Gravelling Units                12
Pipe Units 13
Gravel Construction Units        8
Bitumen Construction Units     2
Bridge Construction Units        8
Roving Betterment Units        24
Bitumen Reseal Unit 1
Salt Road Maintenance Unit     1
Grid Gate Units                     12
Bitumen Maintenance Units    12

Units in Owamboland:

Maintenance Grader Units       5
Light Maintenance Unit            1
Re-Gravelling Unit                   1
Maintenance Gravelling Units   2
Roving Betterment Unit            1

For the next years this relationship did not change. The roads system at this time (1965) was still not geared to territorial integration between all regions of Namibia and to neighbouring countries in the east and north. But the basis for a modern roads infrastructure in Namibia was laid, and the modern time in the development of a roads system had arrived.

The total network of proclaimed roads that is maintained by the Department of Transport of Namibia has risen from 25.000 km in 1953 to 41.800 km in 1990, resulting in more kilometres of roads per head of population than in any other country in Africa, including the Republic of South Africa. The following is an interesting comparison: In 1985 South Africa had 528 persons/km paved road, and in 1983 had Zimba bwe 617 persons/km, Ethiopia 4.412 persons/km and Namibia 274 persons/km of paved road [5] (The statistics for South Africa are for the year 1985 and are compared with statistics for Zimbabwe and Ethiopia for the year 1983 because in the latter case no more up-to-date transportation statistics are available. Namibia's statistics are for 1986 and have been derived from sources in the Department of Transport).

.One of the overwhelming characteristics of the planning of the roads infrastructure in Namibia is the unb alance between the modern sector with partly overdesigned road projects and other vast parts of Namibia with an undeveloped or even non-existent roads system. It can be shown that the areas with the highest population densities have the poorest access to the national road grid. Owamboland is the only region with more than 4,00 persons per km2, followed by the Okavango and Caprivi regions in the north-east with 1,01 to 4,00 persons per km2. The districts of Windh oek, Rehoboth and Tsumeb have 0,51 to 1,00 persons per km2 with the rest of the country with less than 0,25 to 0,50 persons per km2 (based on the 1981 census).

In contrast to these population densities, in Owamboland there are only 4,64% proclaimed roads of the total proclaimed network (1.927,00 km against 41.572,00 km roads on the 30 September 1986) and 9,88% of the total paved roads of the total network of paved roads in Namibia (435 km against 4.402 km paved roads on the 30 September 1986). Another comparison is the fact that from 345 total approved field units for construction and maintenance of Namibia's roads system during 1985/86 only 13 have been deployed in Owamboland.

The reasons for this unbalance are clear. Firstly, there was the demand, created by the mining, fishing and modern export-orientated agriculture sectors as articulated by different pressure groups to achieve their aims in road construction activities. Secondly, the development of a very basic road network of "other roads" in the so-called " homelands" was regarded as an important contribution to realise the aims of the " Odendaal Plan". Thirdly, between the 1960s and 1989 the planning of roads was strongly influenced by the needs of South Africa's defence efforts against neighbouring countries, e.g. mainly Angola, Zambia and Botswana as well as against inside Namibia operating guerilla forces. Roads like trunk roads 8/2, 8/3, 8/4 and 8/6 between Grootfontein and Katima Mulilo (except section: Takwasa- Bagani- Kongola) as well as trunk road 1/11 between Ondangwa and Oshikango (Angola border) and main road 92 between Oshakati and Ruacana have been built since 1979 [92].

From these three very global planning strategies it seems clear that they have been mainly influenced by decision makers represented firstly by the Legislative Assembly of the former SWA Administration and later the South African Administrator General. This explains the very good links with South Africa and the virtual absence of road connections with other neighbouring countries.

Table 1 shows the roads proposed by the Odendaal Commission and their status in the year 1979. A closer examination of priorities for paved roads shows that these roads are either wholly or at least partly located in the modern economy areas and were mainly in the two top classes of roads (trunk- and main roads). Roads essentially traversing the "homelands" were, even where the Odendaal Commission considered them "of great national importance", either not built at all or given a low classification of district road level. Considerable portions of these are considered as "liable to impracticable in bad weather conditions". This partial connection to Namibia's trunk and main roads system increases the inaccessibility of many of the "homeland" areas, more so since, with the exception of Namaland and Rehoboth, these areas have little, if any access to the railway system: See tables 1 [4] and 3. The latter table represents the status-quo of "other roads" in the "homelands" before the Department of Transport has taken over all these "other roads" in July 1980.

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