• September 29th, 2020

Namibia’s rural roads neglected like an orphan

Roads are an asset and whether you travel by motor vehicle, donkey cart, on horseback or on foot, a good road is a blessing. 

For you can do anything from jogging slowly, galloping your horse or raising your vehicle’s speed intermittently. The converse is also true that bad roads are a curse. When you have to contend with a terrible road, especially if you have to do it all your life, everyday spells misery until you develop thick skin for your fate.

During the struggle for independence I had to travel all around the country, coordinating drought relief aid to our communities for the Council of Churches in Namiba. This exposed me to our road infrastructure as there were very few places I had not visited around the nation. 

At the time, roads in the north were the best in the country. Because of the war situation, the South African government in Namibia maintained the roads so that there were no hold-ups as they tracked the freedom fighters way into Angola. 

Next was Okavango and parts of Kaoko - for the same reasons - and roads leading to cities and major towns.

The rest of the country, rural areas in particular, were left to fend for themselves.
One day my friend Steven Hochobeb and I had to travel from Maltahohe via Uibis to Gibeon. The distance between Uibis and Gibeon was 75 kilometres and we travelled it over three hours. By the time we reached Gibeon, Steven gave notice that he would return to Windhoek the following morning. 

In the evening Reverend Hendrik Witbooi and Johannes Isaaks, the principal of the Gibeon English Medium School, joined me in trying to prove that Steven was playing coward. Reverend Witbooi told us this story of a family of seven that in the past had travelled the road between Uibis and Gibeon. 

It had taken them over three weeks and by the time they reached Gibeon, they were all relying on riding the two donkeys because the cart had disintegrated. Eleven years after independence I went to Gibeon for a funeral and people who had come from Uibis for the same funeral decried the state of the same road as it had not changed for the better.

Once I travelled on the Dordabis/Leonardville road on my way to Aminuis and this brought to memory so many trips I had gone along this route. Beautiful landscapes, good quality cattle of all kinds along the road, especially within the commercial farming areas, mixed in with sporadic tourist attraction sites modeled on traditional German style habitations. 

This road culminated into a small strip of tarred road of less than three kilometers as one descended on the town of Leonardville. Further on towards Aminuis, the road flipped over into a regular dirt strip and meandered through the arid semi-desert landscape with light green vegetation, at times stabilising into a sand-dune strip and then transforming itself into a gravel/dirt road on which an experienced forest driver can stabilise to the speed of 80 km an hour, only to plunge through a pool of rain water for a stretch of twenty meters, as evidence that the first rains had fallen.

Most of our nation’s rural roads are dirt to gravel roads, some relatively well maintained while some show signs of fatigue. Rural roads are not a priority for upgrades and maintenance - neither to regional nor to central government fiscal allocations. 

Witness the road between Wilhelmstahl and Omaruru, which held the tradition of a well-kept road, but when I travelled it during June of this year, it showed signs of little maintenance, contrary to its tradition of being well-kept.

The same could be said about the road between Gibeon and Gochas and the one between Keetmanshoop and Aroab. In all my travels these three were the best maintained roads in the country, stemming from before independence in 1990.

In fairness I must confirm that the road between Otjinene and Gobabis has been transformed into an all-tarred road. Currently the tar has reached Onderombapa in the Aminuis Constituency and it is billed to proceed all the way to Aranos, about 120 kilometres into the Hardap Region. 

This is one project that the people of Omaheke appreciate from President Pohamba as even the school kids note with excitement that he brought tar road all the way from Otjivanda to Aminuis.
What makes Namibia’s rural roads so tenuous, close to 30 years after independence? Even more, why should Namibia, so long after freedom, still maintain dirt and gravel roads towards some areas of the country? 

Most of the roads around the country have remained gravel/dirt roads. Their maintenance has remained a sad story and they have been relegated to the mercy of those who service them. 

A glaring example is of the road between Otjinene and Gam/Eiseb, which stretches over 280 klometers. The most reliable good standard clinic to these communities is in Otjinene and that is where they do their relatively reliable shopping, since the opening of shops like Shoprite, Pep Stores and others lately. 

The road infrastructure to these communities is characterised by a combination of semi-desert sandy surface and small river crossings that are life-threatening during the rainy seasons and go through uninhabited areas for the most part, characterised by wild animals of all kinds. 

Namibia needs to take the road infrastructure more seriously and extend the modern construction of roads to the needy areas. It is time that we pay particular attention to the development of our rural roads and convert them into tarred roads so as to enhance the spread of economic development in the country.  

New Era Reporter
2018-10-17 11:12:10 | 1 years ago

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