Sam_Nujoma.jpg (9137 bytes) The pace of progress in the unfolding of Namibia's roads infrastructure cannot be overlooked - it was not achieved easily or cheaply. The problems and difficulties of this development were sometimes demoralising, often unique und always onerous. Namibia is a land of many faces: from inhospitable deserts and hard rocky outcrops to rugged mountains und undulating plains. Each of these presented different problems to the road builder - some areas, barren and waterless, while others offer -one of the biggest structural problems- no appropriate road building materials. Substitutes had to be found, new techniques had to be devised and applied und many innovations had to be developed. Due to its experience in unused und widely diversified conditions the Namibian road authorities are today recognised as a world authority on certain aspects of appropriate road construction techniques in developing countries.

It is against this background that I wish to commend Klaus Dierks for his profound historical study of the build-up of Namibia's history of roads. This history reflects not only the technical growth of Namibia's roads system but a history of a land filled with many contrasts. It is a troubled history which mirrors a remarkable but painful chronicle of Namibia's unfolding. The study is significant in many respects.

Firstly, the study is meaningful because of its impressive originality. Namibia's history of its technical infrastructures, like roads, has received less or no attention in academic literature than have many other fields of Namibian history.

Secondly, Namibia's history of roads presents a number of features which it has in common with other socio-economic developments. Klaus Dierks has, in my view, succeeded in describing Namibia's history in the mirror of its history of roads. This history can be divided into the pre-colonial 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 engineering 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.

Thirdly, Dierks' study showed with evident clarity that from the middle of the 19th century onwards Namibia's roads were developed solely for the interests 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. Namibia's history of colonisation, oppression and exploitation as well as land alienation is echoed by its roads history. However, the study traces not so much the history of domination as that of Namibian resistance against the various colonising powers. Even roads played a great role in the history of the Namibian resistance struggle against colonialism and apartheid with the final objective of complete independence.

It is in the light of above remarks that I believe that Dierks' works on the roads history of Namibia constitutes not only a mirror of Namibia's troubled history of colonising development to the final victory of the people but also a significant contribution to the technical history of physical infrastructures in this vast country. It is against this background that I recommend that this study should not only be read by the engineering planners, designers and builders of roads but also by those who wish to understand better Namibia and its people, its physical and technical features as well as their past and present problems and the future prospects of road developments in the interest of all its people.


Sam Nujoma

President of the Republic of Namibia
State House

22 January 1992

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