Namibia

You are taking me where? Namibia??? This was the conversation with my husband, David when he was telling me about his new assignment. In the original scheme of things, we were supposed to be in Johannesburg for 6-8 months while he oversaw the design of the uranium mine. Then, he would go to the mine site, in Namibia, to oversee the construction.

I really had no clue where in the world Namibia was. I knew that it was in Africa and that was about it. To help you, I am sharing a picture of a map I got off the internet. Namibia is located on the west coast of Africa and north of South Africa. It shares borders with South Africa to the south, to the east is Botswana, the north is Angola and on the west coast of the country is the Atlantic ocean.images

We spent Christmas this year, in Namibia. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to visit another new country but for a Maine gal, Christmas in the desert just doesn’t seem like Christmas at all!! We made the most of our new adventure and have some great memories, especially on Christmas day…which I will share with you later.

Before sharing about our travels, I would like to give you a brief background on the history of Namibia. It has only been an independent country for about the past 25 years and the port of Walvis Bay area only joined the country in 1994!

The first European to set foot on this country was a Portuguese explorer, Diogo Cao in 1485. He was exploring the west coast of Africa and stopped long enough to raise a limestone cross on the coast near Cape Cross. In 1793, the Dutch in the Cape colony of South Africa took control of Walvis Bay as it was the only real good harbor on the west coast. In 1797, the British empire took control of the Cape colony from the Dutch and also, took control of Walvis Bay. I believe that due to the Namib desert and the inhospitable conditions offered by the Namib desert, there was little settlement done by either the Dutch or the British.

Missionaries took an interest in the country and moved north from the Cape colony in 1805 and by 1811, they had founded the town of Bethanie which is in southern Namibia.

In 1884, fearing that Britain was going to declare Namibia a protectorate, the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck claimed the country and established it as German South West Africa. After defeating the Germans during World War I, South Africa ruled the Namibian colony in 1915. The League of Nations gave South Africa continued control the Namibian territory after World War I.

When the League of Nations dissolved and was replaced by United Nations in 1946, South Africa refused to give up control of the area. During the 1950s, there were several petitions sent to the UN by the opposing political party, the Herero Chief’s Council requesting Namibia’s independence. An armed struggle against South Africa’s control over their territory began in earnest in 1966 by a guerrilla group, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia. Finally, in 1988, South Africa agreed to end its occupation according to the UN peace plan.

Namibia’s first “one person, one vote” took place on November, 1989. By 1990, the Namibian Constitution was incorporated and on March 21, 1990 Namibia became an independent country….except for the Walvis Bay region which South Africa refused to relinquish control of because of the port because it was so valuable to South Africa for receiving imports. It was less expensive to have imports come into Walvis Bay and be transported to SA by train than to have the cargo ships sail to the harbor of Cape Town. Upon the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa returned Walvis Bay to Namibia.

So, there you have a very, very abbreviated history of Namibia to give you an idea of the variety of German, British and Afrikaans influence in the country. From my few short days there, I was very impressed with how successful the country appeared to be running compared to what I have observed here in South Africa. The infrastructure appeared to be running smoothly and efficiently. Granted, the roads were mostly gravel but then again, there are fewer people living in Namibia and the arid climate helps in less deterioration of the road system. Also, there appeared to be no issues with electricity in Namibia compared to what we are experiencing here in Johannesburg right now. For the past several months, we have experienced power outages in the South African government’s effort to conserve on electricity. There are a variety of reasons for the lack of electricity in South Africa….the weather, poor maintenance of the facilities and theft of the cables.

I observed none of these issues in Namibia. I wish I had more time to understand and compare the two governments of Namibia and South Africa…both are relatively new but clearly, Namibia seems to be adjusting much better to their new government than here in South Africa.

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