Places To Visit / Top Tourist Attractions
Etosha National Park
This is one of the world’s best wildlife sanctuaries offering excellent game viewing. It protects 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 16 reptiles, one fish and numerous insects. Travellers can enjoy wildlife watching like elephants, zebras, giraffes, hyenas and some big cats.
Fish River Canyon
The fish river typically flowing between March and April is ideal for hiking offering the best trek in the country. There are hot springs with medicinal properties found here and the travellers can enjoy a dip in there. The Hiker’s Viewpoint gives a splendid view of the entire canyon and is the best place to be photographed.
This is a major city of Namibia. It has numerous historical sights like African Cemetery, Alte Gefangnis, Alte Kaserne and Altes Amtsgericht each depicting the traditional German architecture and heritage. Adventure lovers can do quad biking, dune buggy racing and sand boarding in the seaside resort. Art lovers can visit the Kristall Galerie which features the largest quartz crystal that has ever been found in the world along with some other crystal formations.
Visitors can also visit the Namib Naukluft Park which is the fourth largest conservation area in the world. Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Characterised by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan and is a great destination all year round.
The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light.
Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the River seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years. During an exceptional rainy season the Tsauchab fills the pan, drawing visitors from all over the world to witness this spectacular site. Photographic enthusiasts are spoilt with a glassy “lake” holding reflections of the surrounding dunes. When the pan fills it can hold water for as long as a year.
Despite the harsh desert conditions in the area, one can find a wide variety of plants and animals that have adapted to survive.
All of the attractions surrounding Sossusvlei are easily accessible as all but the last 5 kilometers of the 65 kilometer drive to the vlei is tarred. Shuttles provide access to the last 5 kilometers, should you not have a 4×4 vehicle. here are a number of attractions around Sossusvlei for visitors to explore, including Sesriem Canyon, Dune 45, Hiddenvlei, Big Daddy and Deadvlei. The interesting landscape makes this area one of the most photographed in the world. For those travelling to Sesriem (the Namib-Naukluft National Park’s entrance gate) by road, the little settlement of Solitaire is not to be missed as Big-Moose, the local baker, makes delicious world-famous apple strudel!
NamibRand Nature Reserve
The NamibRand Nature Reserve, located in southern Namibia, is a private nature reserve established to help protect and conserve the unique ecology and wildlife of the south-west Namib Desert. Conserving the pro-Namib, the area along the eastern edge of the Namib Desert, is critically important in order to facilitate seasonal migratory wildlife routes and to protect biodiversity. It is probably the largest private nature reserve in southern Africa, extending over an area of 215,000 ha. The Reserve shares a 100km border with the Namib-Naukluft National Park in the west and is bordered in the east by the imposing Nubib Mountains. Virtually all facets of the Namib Desert are represented on the Reserve – sand and gravel plains and stretches of savanna alternate with mountain ranges, inselbergs and vegetated dune belts.
The NamibRand Nature Reserve is a model for private conservation in southern Africa as it demonstrates holistic biodiversity conservation balanced with financial sustainability. Low-impact ecotourism is a means towards sustaining our conservation efforts through park fees. Five tourism concessions have been awarded, that each pay a daily, per-bed fee to the Reserve. The funds generated through these park fees enable the Reserve to be financially self-sustaining.
While Namibia is more famous for being the home of the Namib Desert, it must be remembered that much of eastern and southern Namibia is covered by another – the Kalahari Desert. The Kalahari is not a true desert as it receives too much rain, but it is actually a fossil desert. So do not expect to find the tall sand dunes associated with Sossusvlei, the landscape is more one of golden grass and small red dunes.
The Kalahari Desert – or Kgalagadi, as it is known in Botswana – stretches across 7 countries – Botswana, Zambia, the Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Its coverage in Namibia is called a ‘desert’ principally because it’s porous, sandy soils cannot retain surface water, but in some areas, annual rainfall can be as high as 250mm, which accounts for the luxuriant grass cover during good years.
As the Namibian area of the Kalahari Desert is covered with trees, ephemeral rivers and fossil watercourses, the reasonably regular rainfall patterns that occur every year do allow for huge numbers of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, plant life and insects to thrive. In terms of vegetation most of the southern segment is taken up with camelthorn, red ebony and other acacias, and towards the centre silver terminalia and shrubs are common. Farther north, where the climate is wetter, the acacia gives way to bush savannah and dry woodland of kiaat (also known as wild teak) Zambezi teak (also called mkusi or Rhodesian teak) wild seringa (formerly Rhodesian ash) manketti, shiwi and other magnificent timber species. Large numbers of Tamboti trees grow in the Grootfontein area. The quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma) A. hereroensis and A. littoralis are 3 species of aloe that also occur here.
Arnhem Caves, one of the largest cave systems in Africa, is situated close to Windhoek on the edge of this famous semi-barren land. A visit to it’s surrounding famous red sands are well-worth the effort. The giant leaf-nosed bat, the largest insect-eating bat in the world, can be found here as well as other sorts of cave wall clingers.
The regular rainfall patterns mentioned earlier support many species of plant life. This allows some of the desert’s smaller creatures to locate themselves here.
But the Kalahari’s true lure lies in it’s eerie silence and solitude, both in the sparsely grassed plains and open spaces. Small but scattered populations of people live here. Sheep, limited ostrich farming and other agricultural enterprises dominate the erratic employment market. Today many of these businesses work together with the tourist industry. This provides much-needed additional income for the farmers, job security for their employees and vacancies on a permanent or temporary basis for the locally unemployed. Farm tours, game drives, hiking, guided Bushman walks and cultural visits around ranches large and small has enabled the region to become a popular tourist destination in it’s own right, especially for self-drive travelers. In Botswana although there are some private ranches, the land is mainly used on a communal basis, with the inhabitants raising goats and cattle.
The best known of the Kalahari’s inhabitants are the San Bushmen, numbering only a few thousand and squeezed into inhospitable pieces of land, where they are often exploited as cheap farm labour. The term ‘Bushmen’ is best know referring to nomadic hunter-gather people, also called ‘Basarwa’, (in Botswana) and ‘San’ (in Namibia and South Africa.) The word San means ‘foragers’ and in modern times, (unfairly) conjure up negative connotations of backwardness, low esteem, alcoholism and even banditry.
But the Bushmen are a proud people, and are keen to demonstrate their origins and knowledge of living in the bushveld. They still retain some specific cultural and linguistic characteristics such as the very interesting and unique ‘click’ language, and listening to is a wonderful experience in itself. The Bushmen are the remnants of Southern Africa’s original inhabitants who occupied the whole sub-continent, long before black and white settlers invaded their territories and forced them to the margins. As proof of the fact that they occupied extensive territory, there are the superb ‘Bushman’ rock paintings that are found in great numbers in caves and rock shelters all over southern Africa.
In Namibia, excellent examples of Bushman rock art can be found in the Damaraland region.
Although there is no national park in the areas of Namibia covered by the Kalahari, there are several recommended lodges and guest farms which allow visitors to explore this desert area.
Damaraland is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia, a huge, untamed, ruggedly beautiful region that offers the more traveller a more adventurous challenge. Here there are prehistoric water courses with open plains and grassland, massive granite koppies and deep gorges. Towards the west, the geography changes dramatically with endless sandy wastes, that incredibly are able to sustain small, but wide-ranging, populations of desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, ostrich and springbok. These animals have adapted their lifestyles to survive the harshness of the sun-blistered, almost waterless desert spaces. Elephant move through euphorbia bush country, and can travel up to 70km in a day in search of food and water and unusually, do not destroy trees in their quest for food. Follow black rhino cow and her calf in typical Damaraland ‘melkbos’ terrain. Together, Damaraland and Kaokoland are known as the Kaokoveld.
Damaraland extends 200km inland from the desolate Skeleton Coast and 600km southwards from Kaokoland. The name Damaraland is derived from the fact that the Damara people live in this area (they were relocated here as a result of the Odendaal Plan in the 1960’s). The name Damaraland is still commonly used in tourism circles, although the entire region has now been renamed; the southern section now lies in the Erongo region while the north forms part of the Kunene region.
Highlights of the area include:
The Brandberg ‘the fire mountain’ is named after the effect created by the setting of the sun on its western face, which causes the granite massif to resemble a burning slag heap glowing red. The Brandberg (and the Spitzkoppe) is a favourite place for climbers in Namibia, and both mountains contain a high density of San (Bushman) art. The main attraction at Twyfelfontein (doubtful spring) is its large gallery of rock art, one of the most extensive in Africa.
Two other well-known geological features close to Twyfelfontein are the Organ Pipes and the Burnt Mountain. The Organ Pipes are a distinctive series of dolerite pillars that have been exposed by erosion and can be viewed in the small gorge on the left hand side of the road leading to the Burnt Mountain. This flat-topped mountain derives its name from the piles of blackened limestone at its base.
The Spitzkoppe (sharp head) is one of Namibia’s most recognizable landmarks. It’s shape has inspired its nickname, The Matterhorn of Africa,’ but the similarities begin and end with its sharp peak. It is actually the remnant of an ancient volcano, formed in the same way as the Brandberg and Erongo massifs. It was first climbed in 1946 and is now a popular climbing destination with local and foreign mountaineers alike, with plenty of technical climbs available.
In the caves and ravines of the area many prehistoric rock paintings have been found and none more famous than the ‘White Lady’ of the Brandberg. The trees of the Petrified Forest were uprooted some 200 million years ago and were swept along by rivers in flood, covered by sediments and then subsequently uncovered by erosion. Your local community guides will provide more of an insight into the area, whilst ensuring that pieces of petrified wood are not removed.
The 35m-high Vingerklip (finger rock) is also known as Kalk-Kegel (limestone pillar) and rises above the Bertram farm. It is an erosional remnant of a limestone plateau and was formed over 15 million years ago. The large cave in it’s base, surrounded by rubble, gives the impression it will topple over any minute. It was first climbed in 1970 by the American Tom Choate.
A new addition to tourism in the area is the exciting addition of Rhino and Elephant tracking safaris. Proceeds from these safaris go towards the preservation of these animals and there are numerous guided safaris to Damaraland and these offer an informative way of visiting the area.
Kaokoland is one of the last remaining wilderness areas in Southern Africa. It is a world of incredible mountain scenery, a refuge for the rare desert dwelling elephant, black rhino and giraffe and the home of the Himba people. Although it is harsh and offers little respite at midday, the rugged landscape is especially attractive during the early morning and late afternoon when it is transformed into softly glowing pastel shades.
The topography in the south of the area is characterised by rugged mountains which are dissected by numerous watercourses, but north of the Hoarusib River the scenery is dominated by table-top koppies. Still further north, the Otjihipa Mountains rise abruptly above the Namib floor to form the eastern boundary of the Marienfluss, while the west of the valley is defined by the Hartmann Mountains. The Marienfluss valley is very scenic and relatively greener than the Hartmann’s valley. Hartmann’s valley is closer to the Atlantic and yet much more arid. However, it does have a strange atmosphere when the sea mists drift inland.
Kaokoland differs greatly from Damaraland in terms of accessibility and infrastructure. While quite a bit of Damaraland is isolated from the outside world it is really Kaokoland which is the back and beyond, silent, huge and for the most part empty. With 16,000 or so inhabitants, 5,000 of them Himba, Kaokoland has a population density of only one person to every two square kilometers which is about a quarter of the national average.
Kaokoland is bordered on the south the Hoanib River and on the north the Kunene River which also forms Namibia’s border with Angola. Mountain ranges near the Kunene River are rugged and impressive with the highest point located at 2039m in the Baynes Mountains. It is an oddity that a river runs through this arid landscape with the only real waterfalls in Namibia along it’s course. The Ruacana Falls are 120m high and 700m wide in full flood. Also along the Kunene River you’ll find the Epupa falls, about 135km downstream from the Ruacana falls. The name Epupa is a Herero work for the spume created by falling water. Epupa is formed by a series of cascades that drop a total of 60m over a distance of about 1.5km and at one point reaches a total width of 500m. It is a possibility to swim in some of the pools but one has to be wary of crocodiles in doing so.
The area surrounding Epupa Falls has richly coloured rock walls, a variety of trees including the wild fig, baobabs and waving makalani palms. Spectacular sunsets and perennially flowing waters means that the area offers much to see and experience. Bird watching is rewarding, especially for the rare Rufoustailed palm thrush, as well as bee eaters, the African fish eagle and Kingfishers ranging from giant to the tiny Malachite Kingfisher. One of the best places to stay in the Epupa area is the Epupa Camp luxury lodge.
For a bit of adventure try white water rafting and canoeing on the Kunene River. For about twenty years preceding independence the Kunene River was out of bounds because of the bush war, but since the early nineties trekking this far north for river adventures has taken off in a big way. The stretch of river normally traversed is the 120km between Ruacana and Epupa Falls. A highlight of the trip is negotiating the Ondurusa rapids as well as passing through the looming zebra mountains and crossing the section of the river known as the 13 rapids.
Near the hot water spring at Warmquelle is Sesfontein Fort which for many years was a desolate and rapidly disintegrating ruin. Almost a hundred years after it was first built, the historical monument, originally a police outpost, was reconstructed and equipped to accommodate tourists. Sesfontein Fort derives its name from the six fountains which have their source in the vicinity. The palm trees at the fort were planted by the German police officers who manned the fort to combat weapons smuggling and elephant and rhino poaching.
The Himba people who inhabit Kaokoland are the descendants of the earliest Herero’s who migrated into this area in the 16th century. Around the middle of the 18th century the pressure of too many people and cattle in this dry, fragile environment led to the migration of the main body of the Herero to the rich pasture lands further south. The Himba are an ancient tribe of semi nomadic pastoralists, many of whom still live and dress according to ancient traditions and live in scattered settlements throughout Kaokoland. They are a slender and statuesque people. The women especially are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment which protects their skins against the harsh desert climate. The homes of the Himba are simple cone shaped structures of saplings bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. A family may move from one home to other several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle.
In terms of wildlife Kaokoland is probably most famous for it’s desert elephant. The possibility of obtaining a glimpse, however brief, of a herd of desert dwelling elephants is what draws most tourists to the area. Between 1977 and 1982 a crippling drought gripped the area and wiped out large numbers of game.
However, the biggest threat came from poachers, and between 1970 and 1983 the number of desert-dwelling elephants in the Kaokoveld declined from an estimated 300 to 70. Although the desert-dwelling elephants are not a separate subspecies they have adapted to their extremely harsh environment, the only other place in Africa where elephants live in such harsh conditions is in Mali on the edge of the Sahara Desert. The secret of their survival in the arid wastelands is an intimate knowledge of their limited food and water resources. During the dry periods they will even dig deep holes to obtain water and in this way also provide other animals with water. Unlike other elephants which drink daily, these ones have been observed going without water for up to four days. The black rhino of Kaokoland suffered a fate similar to that of the elephants and by 1983 the population in the east had been exterminated, while only a few individuals survived in the extreme western parts of Kaokoland which makes them a very rare sight. Nowadays, there are a few organisations doing their best to ensure the continuing existence of these rare and unique animals
In the northeast of the country, Namibia reaches out to touch the great Zambezi. Here, in the Caprivi Strip, wide tropical rivers bear names to conjure with – the Zambezi, the Okavango, the Chobe and the Linyanti. The vegetation is lush and supports a dense population, making this a unique corner of Namibia which, in many ways, feels much more like a part of Botswana or Zambia than it does a part of the rest of Namibia.
On a trip across the Caprivi you will come across many villages and their inhabitants. Children herding goats wander back and forth across the road, women sell fruits, carvings, pots and pans from makeshift stalls, and everywhere you will be warmly welcomed. Even the Strip’s main town, Katima Mulilo, is fairly small.
The town of Rundu gives access to the Caprivi Strip, meanwhile if you’re driving past, consider dropping into Botswana for just a taste of that country during your trip.
National Parks And Reserves In The Caprivi Strip
There are five protected areas within the Caprivi Strip – and in all of them you’ll find big game, including water-loving species – like hippo, crocodile, sable, waterbuck, reedbuck and buffalo – which are largely absent from the rest of Namibia.
Popa Falls Reserve
Popa Falls lie at a point where the Okavango River breaks up and drops 2.5m over a rocky section, caused by the first of five geological faults. Essentially they are a series of rapids, pretty rather than spectacular; even the warden at the entrance admits that many visitors are disappointed. Beyond the falls, the Okavango begins gradually to spread out across the Kalahari.
The area by the riverside at Popa Rapids (A.K.A. Popa Falls)is thickly vegetated with tall riverine trees and lush green shrubs, which encourage waterbirds and a variety of small reptiles. Footbridges have been built between some of the islands, and it’s worth an hour’s stop to spend hopping among the rushing channels, or walking upstream a little where there’s a good view of the river before it plunges over the rapids. In a few hours you can see all of this tiny reserve, and have a good chance of spotting a leguvaan (water monitor), a snake or two, and many different frogs.
Mahango National Park
The eastern boundary of Mahango National Park is the Okavango River, which is also the reserve’s focus. Here the river forms channels between huge, permanent papyrus reedbeds. Adjacent are extensive floodplain areas, where you’re quite likely to spot red lechwe or sable.
Beside these, on the higher and drier land of the bank, are wide belts of wild date palm-forest, as well as the lush riverine vegetation that you’d expect. Further from the river are dry woodlands and acacia thickets, dotted with a few large baobabs. This rich variety of greenery attracts an impressive range of animals including the water-loving buffalo, elephant, sable, reedbuck, bushbuck and waterbuck and the more specialist red lechwe and sitatunga. Good numbers of hippo and crocodile are also present.
Mahango is a great favourite with birdwatchers; more species can be found here than in any other park in Namibia. This variation should come as no surprise, as the reserve has one of Namibia’s few wetland habitats, adjacent to large stretches of pristine Kalahari sandveld. Thus many water-loving ducks, geese, herons, plovers, egrets, kingfishers and various waders occur here, along with the dry-country birds that you’ll find in the rest of Namibia. Okavango specialities like the slaty egret can sometimes be spotted, and for many birds – including the lesser jacana, coppery-tailed coucal and racket-tailed roller – Mahango marks the western limit of their distributions.
Bwabwata National Park
Bwabwata National Park (frequently pronounced ‘Babatwa’) covers a large chunk of the Caprivi Strip. This is a largely undeveloped park which, whilst home to much wildlife, has few facilities and little in the way of marked game-viewing side roads. Most visitors just pass through, saving their time for other parks. All that you can usually see from the road are a few raptors aloft and the occasional elephant dropping on the road – but drive carefully in case something does appear unexpectedly. The park is very sparsely populated, with a few settlements: Omega, Chetto, and Omega III.
Mudumu National Park
The more northerly of Eastern Caprivi’s two reserves, Mudumu, covers 850km² of riverine forest south of Kongola. Bordered by the Kwando River on the west, the reserve has good populations of a large variety of animals. Together with Mamili and the Triangle, Mudumu is notable for its buffalo (otherwise uncommon in Namibia), roan and sable antelope (both generally uncommon species), the water-loving lechwe and sitatunga, and often large herds of elephant.
Mamili National Park
This unfenced swampland reserve of about 350km² was created shortly before Namibia’s independence and consists largely of marshland, veined by a network of reed-lined channels. It includes two large islands: Nkasa and Lupala. Together with Mudumu National Park, it has the vast majority of Namibia’s population of sitatunga, red lechwe and puku, as well as large herds of buffalo, and a recorded 430 bird species.
Mamili is located in the southwest corner of the eastern Caprivi Strip, where the Kwando sharply changes direction to become the Linyanti. As yet there are few facilities for visitors.
If you really want to see Mamili, then one easy way is probably to stay on the other side of the river, in one of several exclusive camps in Botswana, which overlook the park.
The striking sight of Waterberg Plateau’s brick-red sandstone crowned with lush vegetation has supported a wide diversity of flora and fauna for thousands of years. Rising to 420m in places and enveloped by Namibian savannah, the untouched fortifications of this unmistakable feature have provided nature with the perfect wildlife sanctuary.
The Waterberg Plateau and 41,000 hectares of surrounding land was declared a Nature Reserve in 1972. The table land is largely inaccessible, enabling several of Namibia’s endangered species to be relocated here to protect them from predators and illegal hunting. The reintroduction programme was so successful that surplus species are released from Waterberg to supply other Namibian parks with rare animals. Poaching has since been eliminated.
Evidence of early human occupancy can be established by viewing rock engravings at Okarakuvisa waterhole.
While visiting the Waterberg Plateau you will have the opportunity to note some of the 200 plus species of bird that have been recorded here. Black eagles, peregrine falcons and Namibia’s only breeding colony of Cape vultures are amongst 33 types of birds of prey. The latter are the rarest birds in Namibia. Hartlaub’s francolin, Rüppell’s parrot, Bradfield’s swift, Monteiro’s hornbill, red-billed and violet wood-hoopoe, short-toed rock thrush, rockrunner and Carp’s tit are included on your tick list. Migrants include yellow-billed kite, Abdim’s stork, paradise flycatcher and European roller.
The geological arrangement and variation of vegetation of Waterberg can best be explored along a series of trails either on the base of the plateau (9 unguided hiking trails) or on 3 guided hikes accessible on the summit, led by a park ranger or warden. Keen hikers can also arrange to undertake a 42km self-guided trail. This adventure is ‘strictly controlled’ and participants are expected to be self-sufficient. There are some shelters and water but fires are not permitted. Your route meanders along well-defined tracks and through dry river courses. The scenery is fantastic and plant and wildlife can be viewed and photographed along the way at your leisure.
Khaudum National Park
Tucked away in the Kavango Region is the extremely wild and undeveloped Khaudum Game Park. It was established with conservation in mind, as opposed to financial revenue. It is rarely visited, probably because of it’s basic tourist infrastructure, but nevertheless, those with an adventurous streak, should look no further than ‘Namibia’s forgotten wilderness.’ There are more elephants than visitors and perhaps those who are used to the ‘well-beaten paths and tracks’ of bigger and more famous National Parks, could spend at least a few exhilarating days here.
Khaudum operates an open-park system, which goes some way to explaining why game numbers vary considerably. Only the border with Botswana and a 55km section of the western border of the park are fenced; this enables animals to follow their natural hereditary migration routes to and from the water-rich Kavango River and floodplains. The 384,000ha coverage is home to animals such as antelope, huge herds of elephant, zebras, African wild dog, lions, leopards as well as 320 bird species.
Khaudum National Park is all about adventure, and half the fun of any journey is getting there. But the roads can be poor, and the best time to visit is during the dry winter months, June to October. A minimum of two 4×4 wheel drive vehicles must be used per party, provisions for 3 days and 100 litres of water per vehicle, per day, must be taken. It also goes without saying that as travel is slow and heavy on fuel, your 4×4 must be constantly engaged. This has a lot to do with driving on tracks that tend to follow omurambas (dry river beds) that link several waterholes together. There are 12 artificial waterholes and 2 natural fountains and they can all be reached by vehicle as 2 track roads interlink the park in its entirety. Most of the watering holes have hides, from which game can be viewed safely.
There are 2 access points to the park. From the north it’s from the Katere road and from the south entrance is via the Tsumkwe road. Drivers should note that all roads, including access roads, require 4×4 vehicles, mainly due to heavy, loose sand. There is no fuel available in the park and the closest fuel stations are at Tsumkwe (which only provides diesel and petrol 93 leaded type), Grootfontein (360km from Sikeretti Camp), Rundu (170km from Khaudum Camp) and Bagani/Divundu (150km from Khaudum Camp.) Some 37km from Khaudum Camp is a state clinic on the Katere – Khaudum camp road and the medical infrastructure at Tsumkwe is limited to a nurse.
Namibia is one of Africa’s youngest destinations consisting of facetted grandeur and harsh splendor of the desert. It is a photographer’s dream having a striking diversity of seascapes, striking wildlife, rough mountains, isolated deserts and colonial cities. Namibia is a gem for travelers interested in untouched wilderness and wildlife along with desert landscapes. Namibia is located in Southern Africa sharing borders with Atlantic Ocean, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It was under the control of South Africa for a long period and recently gained independence in 1990 following the Namibian War of Independence.
Namibia has a stable multi-party democracy and is a member of United Nations, African Union, the Commonwealth of Nations and many other international organizations. It is the thirty-fourth largest country in the world and least densely populated after Mongolia. The country experiences heavy rainfall from January to April and dry from May to September. January and February are the hottest months though the cold Benguela winds cool the desert. There is a short rainy season from October to December. Although Namibia is a year-round destination it is best to visit in February and March which is an ideal time for bird watching or the cooler months of May to October, although the nights can then get quite cold.
Namibia is truly called the land of contrasts as it is divided into five different geographical areas each having its distinctive characteristics. The Central Plateau contains the highest peak of Namibia at Konigstein with an elevation of 2606m. The majority of Namibia’s population and economic activity is located in this area including the capital city Windhoek due to the presence of fertile land. The Namib Desert is home to some of the largest sand dunes in the world due to the prevailing south-west winds. It is said to be the oldest in the world with its awe-inspiring space. There is very little vegetation here except lichens found in gravel plains. The Great Escarpment is a rugged region with infertile land but is still more productive than the Namib Desert. This area is covered with grasses and shrubby vegetation and consists of a number of Acacia species. Bushveld receives the maximum precipitation in the country and has been demarcated by the World Wildlife Fund because of its ecological importance. The Kalahari Desert, the popular geographical region consists of isolated mountains called Inselbergs that create microclimates and habitat for organisms not adapted to the desert area.
The economy of Namibia is largely dependent on the abundant natural resources found here. Mining is the main occupation contributing around 25% to the country’s income. Agriculture is another source of revenue employing half of the population for their livelihood. The growth of wildlife conservancies has greatly improved the economic development of the country. Namibia is the fifth largest producer of uranium. It is the fourth largest exporter of nonfuel minerals in Africa. Namibia also has rich alluvial deposits of diamonds along with lead, zinc, tin, and silver. Namibia is also a becoming a popular ecotourism destination because of its different climates and natural geographical landscapes.
People And Culture
Majority of the population of Namibia consists of Black African mostly the Ovambo living in the north of the country. There is also Herero and Himba people along with the main Bantu majority. Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese, British and French makeup about 7% of the population and share the similar culture, origin, and religion as the white and coloured populations of South Africa. Christianity is the main religion consisting of Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodist, and Jewish. There are about 3% of the Muslims and the rest 10% of the population follow indigenous beliefs. English is the main and official language its also most common among the younger generation. German, Oshiwambo, and Afrikaans are other widely spoken and understood languages.
Tourists can enjoy the striking diversity of cultures and national origins in Namibia by visiting their markets, homesteads and local cuca shops. The country is empowering education by and making it free and compulsory for children between the ages 6 and 16 years. Although most of the schools here are state-run, there are some private and semi-private schools also coming up. Among sports, football is the most popular sport of Namibia due to the qualification of Namibian national football team in 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. Cricket and Rugby union are also popular and the Namibian ultra marathon is considered one of the toughest footraces in the world. Namibia is proud to be the only country in the world to specially address conservation and protection of natural resources in its constitution.
Windhoek is the capital and the largest city of Namibia and is situated in the heart of the country. It serves as the main city for commercial and administrative purposes. The city is home to fine German architectural buildings including the Tintenpalast parliament building, the city’s landmark church viz. Christuskirche and the fortress Alte Feste which is the oldest surviving building housing a National Museum. Visitors can enjoy the nightlife in the lively bars, restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs here including the theatres and cinemas. Shopping lovers would love Windhoek for its fashionable shops selling traditional jewellery and semi-precious stones and diamonds. Local crafts including beautiful wood carvings, Swakara garments, and liqueur chocolates can be purchased from the Windhoek Street Market.
Transport And Communication
There is an international airport in the capital Windhoek catering to all international flights from Europe and North America. Air Namibia is the main national carrier flying to London and Frankfurt along with southern Africa. All border crossings between Namibia and its neighboring countries are open and the travellers can enter the country by land through Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The road network is very well developed and it is quite easy to get in the country by road. The majority of roads are gravel so it is only possible to travel between 60 & 80km per hour making progress slow.
The communication system of Namibia is progressing with the advent of technology. Travellers can find internet cafes in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay and the mobile network is good in most urban cities. There is a good postal service. The media of Namibia is quite independent enjoying the freedom of press through many daily and weekly newspapers published in several languages including English. TV and Radio are both private and state-run.
Food And Accommodation
Tourists can try the local delicacies including the famous air dried and smoked meat – biltong. Most of the cafes and restaurants serve multi-cuisine but reflect a German influence. Seafood especially oysters is popular in the coastal areas and many travellers enjoy the barbeque of game such as antelope, ostrich or zebra cooked on a ‘braai’. Windhoek lager and Tafel Lager are the known national drinks though the legal drinking age is 18.
Namibia offers a variety of accommodation meets the needs and budget of all kinds of travellers. There are good quality hotels in urban cities with modern facilities including conference halls. Camping is also popular in national parks including in Etosha National Park and Game Reserve and various places along the coast. There are also some luxury lodges in national parks which include the game drive and other activities during their stay. Visitors can experience the traditional lifestyle of the local people by living in rural accommodation or staying on a farm.
Namibia is a dream of poets and photographers who are enchanted by its unique, ever varying magnificence. Time and space are less defined here and the visitors would wonder whether something so mesmerizing could really ever exist.
Namibia, a former German colony, is situated towards the north west of South Africa. The Orange River marks the border between the two countries. The country is about 800 000 square kilometers big and borders on Angola to the north and Botswana in the east. The Caprivi Strip, which stretches off its northern edge, extends between Botswana and Zambia. The first European that landed in Namibia was the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão, who came ashore north of Swakopmund at Cape Cross in 1484.
Parts of Namibia are notoriously dry and much of the country is made up of the Namib Desert and the Kalahari. Towards the north the country becomes greener with the Etosha Pan filling with water from northern rivers. This area is rich in diverse wildlife. The Skeleton Coast marks the area where the Namib meets the Atlantic Ocean and is littered with wrecks of ships that ran ashore in the treacherous waters, whalebone shelters used by the San and ghost towns that boomed during the early diamond days.
Due to its harsh environment Namibia is sparsely populated with various different groups. Its population is made up of San, Damaras, Ovambos, Namas, Hereros, Oorlams, Kavangos, East Caprivians, Rehoboth Basters, Kaokovelders, Tswanas and European settlers, mostly German.
The country is rich in natural resources and its main mineral products are copper, diamonds, gold, lead and uranium. The South African and Portuguese governments jointly developed the Kunene hydroelectric scheme in 1969. Fishing is also a prominent industry in Namibia, but exploitation of the rich marine resources led to the near extinction of pilchards and anchovies in the 1960s and 70s. Strict controls were put in place and the numbers of fish have steadily increased since then.
In 1885 the Chancellor of the German Empire, Bismarck, held a convention in Berlin where European powers divided Africa among themselves. This was called the “Scramble for Africa”. In 1886 the border between Angola and what would become German South West Africa was negotiated between the German and Portuguese nations. In 1890 the first German military fort was built at Windhoek and, in July of the same year, the British government also apportioned the Caprivi Strip to the Germans. This would give Germany access to the Zambezi River and its other East African territories, and it would give up its claims on Zanzibar.
The reason Germany selected Namibia as its “protectorate” was influenced by the fact that a tobacco merchant from Bremen, Franz Luderitz, bought up coastal land in the area in 1882. This resulted in Germany actively establishing itself in the African country by 1884. They occupied Herero lands.
Initially the Herero accepted the “treaties of protection”, but the Nama people resisted. In 1888 the Germans confiscated Herero lands and large numbers of their cattle. The aim was to turn South West Africa into a settler colony. In 1890 German soldiers attacked the Nama and by 1892, despite efforts by the Nama and Herero to put up a united front, they were crushed.
By the beginning of the twentieth century African resistance become the central theme under local leaders. German forces were still occupied in crushing the 1903 Bondelswarts Uprising and were hard pressed when the Herero rose in revolt in 1904. Once reinforcements arrived with superior guns German troops defeated them. The new German commander-in-chief, General Lothar von Trotha, ordered the extermination of all Herero people. Pursued by German troops they fled into the desert, into northern Ovamboland and into eastern Bechuanaland, or Botswana. While the German troops were destroying the Herero, the Portuguese launched a new offensive against the northern Ovambo.
In 1905 the Nama, who responded a band of guerrilla fighters. After a year of fierce fighting, Witbooi was killed in action but Jacob Marengo continued to lead the Nama resistance for a further two years. In 1907, the death of Marengo brought about the end of the war of resistance. Many of the surviving Nama and Herero were imprisoned or sent to labour camps. All the remaining Herero lands were confiscated and they were forbidden to keep cattle. Thereafter German policy altered to one of forcing the survivors into the workforce in order to develop the colony.
When the First World War broke out in 1914 South Africa agreed to participate in an assault on German South West Africa. Some Afrikaner Nationalists in South Africa opposed this. Led by Generals J B M Hertzog and C R de Wet they were against South African participation in the war against Germany and any attack on South West Africa, which they viewed as the colonial territory of a friendly power.
The Union Government, however, had military necessity and economic reasons to incorporate the territory into the Union after the war. These conflicting motives and ideals led to the South African Rebellion. With the suppression of the rebellion General Louis Botha launched South Africa’s troops upon the conquest of the German colony and the British navy captured Luderitz Bay in September 1914, cutting off German supplies.
South African occupation started in May 1915 when General Louis Botha, first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, ordered 40 000 South African troops into the territory. Heavily outnumbered, the German forces were forced into retreat. The colony surrendered on 9 July 1915, bringing 31 years of German rule to an end.
General J C Smuts, a member of the British War Cabinet, put forward the idea of a League of Nations Mandate system for Germany’s conquered colonial possessions. He did not intend this to apply to Germany’s African colonies because he hoped to see South West Africa incorporated into South Africa. He was unable to persuade the Peace Conference to approve this and in 1920 he and General Louis Botha very reluctantly agreed that South Africa should administer South West Africa under a Class C Mandate from the League of Nations. The mandate purported to safeguard the rights and interests of the indigenous people. It was also obliged to submit annual reports to the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission.
The hopes of the inhabitants of South West Africa for redress of grievances when the Union Government took over the territory were soon dashed. During the period 1922 to 1946 the indigenous peoples were allocated from 10,6% to as little as 3,6% of the budget. Even though about 6000 Germans left the country, grazing lands sequestrated by the German colonial government were not restored. Instead, pastoral chiefdoms and communities were dispossessed and almost half the territory was allocated to some 3 000 White settler ranches that were heavily subsidised. Some of these were given to about three hundred Afrikaners, descendants of Voortrekkers who had previously settled in Angola.
Until 1948 the highest authority in the territory was the Administrator of the territory, appointed by the South African Government. Only White settlers were allowed to vote for the Legislative Assembly and local authorities. A resident commissioner and magistrates administered the local inhabitants, issuing directives to chiefs and headmen. Four native commissioners exercised authority in Ovamboland. Black chiefs were treated as government agents who could be replaced or dismissed. Ovamboland was looked on as a labour reserve and very little development was undertaken there.
The greater part of the territory outside Ovamboland included White settlements and the mines. The Herero and Nama communities within this zone were allocated reserves. Expenditure on development of the reserves was curtailed in order to pressure the local people into seeking employment on White farms. This would develop contract labour and establish a migrant labour system similar to that of South Africa.
One incident in particular served to draw international criticism to South Africa. In 1921 the Union administration became involved in the suppression of the Bondelswarts, who, although living on the borderlines of poverty, managed to retain their economic independence by hunting, using dogs. To break this activity the tax on dogs was levied. In addition, their leader, Jacobus Christian, was arrested without proper cause.
In May 1922 the popular hero Abraham Morris, who had led the Bondelswarts resistance to the Germans in 1903, decided to come home with some armed refugees who had fled to the Union for sanctuary during the German occupation. Morris had served as a guide to the South African invasion forces, and had been given a gun in recognition of his services. The Bondelswarts were ordered to hand him over. Violence broke out when Morris’ followers refused to surrender their guns. Although Morris agreed to hand over the guns, a fortnight later the new Administrator-General of South West Africa, G R Hofmeyr, and the Bondelswarts leader, Christian, failed to agree.
Hofmeyr ordered a punitive expedition. Smuts tried to restrain Hofmeyr, but failed, and the South African army with bomber support attacked the community, killing some women and children. With this, the Bondelswarts men openly rebelled, but they were soon completely crushed. Thereafter, and throughout the period that led to Second World War, South Africa was subjected to regular criticism by the United Nations Permanent Mandate Commission.
The United Nations (UN) was formed in 1944 and soon afterwards began trying to persuade South Africa to submit the mandate to United Nations trusteeship. Smuts made a determined effort to incorporate South West Africa into the Union of South Africa after the war. In May 1946 the White Legislative Assembly of the territory called for South West Africa’s incorporation in South Africa and chiefs and headmen were also persuaded to petition for transfer of the territory to the Union. The South African proposal was opposed by the UN General Assembly, with India, already at loggerheads with South Africa over the treatment of South African Indians, leading the attack.
The liberal English clergyman, Reverend Michael Scott, and Dr Xuma, president of the African National Congress (ANC), provided evidence against South Africa on the grounds of racial discrimination. They had also received reports from the Herero and others that indicated that the local chiefs had misunderstood the petition and that many of them were, in fact, against incorporation in South Africa. Smuts refused to accept that the UN was the legitimate successor to the defunct League of Nations by refusing to register South West Africa as a UN Trusteeship Territory.
Dr D F Malan used Smuts’ difficulties with the UN over South West Africa as a tool in his election campaign before 1948. The National Party (NP) intended to incorporate the territory into South Africa unilaterally, and to apply its racial policies in spite of world opinion. After the NP won the South African election of 1948 the new government refused to submit further reports on South West Africa to the UN because the mandate over South West Africa had lapsed, but they stopped short of open defiance of UN authority. In 1949, without incorporating the territory, the Nationalists ingeniously increased their majority in the South African Parliament by creating six new seats for the White population of South West Africa in the Lower House and four in the Senate. In this way it brought about effective rule over South West Africa as a fifth province, without UN recognition.
The UN challenged South Africa’s actions in the International Court of Justice. The next year the Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion that South Africa’s mandate to administer the territory should remain in force, but that as the UN was the League of Nations’ successor, South Africa must still report to it. South Africa rejected the court’s ruling and in 1954. South West African “Native Affairs” were placed under the direct control of Pretoria. Although it had withdrawn from the Trusteeship Committee, South Africa was persuaded to rejoin in 1957 for negotiations with Charles Arden-Clarke, the UN negotiator. When these failed, the period of resolutions condemning South Africa’s policies began.
In 1959 riots broke out in Windhoek over the extension of urban apartheid to South West Africa, and the forced removal and resettlement of people from locations near Windhoek to one remote from the city. In November of that year the UN Assembly noted that South Africa was administering the territory in a manner contrary to the mandate, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the advisory opinions of the International Court of Justice, and earlier resolutions of the UN Assembly itself.
The Trusteeship Committee required that South Africa revoke all apartheid laws that applied in South West Africa and it appointed a seven-nation committee to investigate conditions. In 1960 Liberia and Ethiopia applied to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, the World Court, for binding judgment against South Africa. The South African government invited the chairman and secretary of the seven-nation committee, Victorio Carpio of the Philippines and Dr Martinez de Alva of Mexico respectively, to visit the territory. They arrived in 1962 and while they were in South Africa they issued a report favourable to it.
After leaving the country they brought out another report affirming that apartheid was being rigorously enforced in South West Africa and stating that South Africa did not intend to abandon its policies, and was not preparing the people of South West Africa for independence. Carpio repudiated the first report. At the time, Carpio and De Alva lost credibility, not only because the two reports seemed contradictory, but also because the South West African case was sub judice at The Hague. However, with the publication of the Odendaal Report in 1964, the substance of the second report was proved correct.
In 1962 the World Court decided that it had the power to judge the case and it rejected the South African argument that the plaintiffs, Ethiopia and Liberia, had no standing. The plaintiffs argued that the franchise in South West Africa was restricted to Whites. They said that inadequate educational facilities were provided and that the inhabitants had to use travel passes. They observed that political party and trade union membership had been banned, that the inhabitants were kept racially segregated, that certain jobs were reserved for Whites, that Blacks were excluded from the right to own landed property over large areas of the territory and that the administrator of the territory could force deportation of individuals without right of appeal.
The case dragged on for six years, during which time one judge died and a successor with different views was appointed who rejected the legal standing of Ethiopia and Liberia. South Africa narrowly won the case by eight votes to seven. This strengthened the determination of members of the UN General Assembly to end South Africa’s mandate over the territory and to place it under UN control.
Rising political consciousness in South West Africa resulted in the formation of Black political parties. The South West African National Union (SWANU) was founded in 1962 and was active in central South West Africa for a time. Other small parties developed in the south.
Toivo ya Toivo and Sam Nujoma transformed the Ovamboland People’s Organization (OPO) into the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) in 1960 and began training a guerrilla army. SWAPO gained the sympathy of the Black African states and through them the UN, resulting in the resolution of the UN Security Council that banned the sale of arms to South Africa. During 1966 SWAPO’s first military action took place in Ovamboland. Two years later SWAPO members were convicted in the Pretoria terrorism trial and their leader, Toivo ya Toivo, was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.
This changed South Africa’s political approach to a policy of separate development. In 1964 the Report of the Commission of Enquiry, which had been prepared in close collaboration with Dr H F Verwoerd, recommended that South West Africa be partitioned. 1968 the Development of Self-Government for Native Nations in South West Africa Act laid the foundations for homelands. As in South Africa bantustans, later known as homelands, were defined for the various Black, Khoi, San and Damara communities. More than 50% of the land was to be reserved as a homeland for the White minority. This included most of the territory’s mineral wealth and agricultural potential, and was ultimately to be absorbed into South Africa.
This scheme was furthered when the South West Africa Affairs Act of 1969 transferred many powers from the Territorial Assembly in Namibia to the South African Assembly. Lack of Black support in Namibia for these plans, especially in SWAPO-supporting territory, was demonstrated in 1973 by the very small poll in the elections for Ovamboland’s so-called ‘self-government’.
In 1967 the UN Council for South West Africa was established, and subsequently renamed the Council for Namibia. Prodded by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) international pressure mounted against South Africa. The UN again tried unsuccessfully to take over the administration of the territory in 1967, and two years later passed a resolution that South Africa should terminate its administration over South West Africa.
South Africa ignored this and took the administration of the territory under direct rule in 1969. Although the UN Security Council endorsed the termination of South Africa’s mandate with a declaration that South Africa was an illegal occupier of Namibia (Resolution 276), and although it requested sanctions against South Africa (Resolution 283), it was unable to do anything about it. It therefore asked the World Court for an advisory opinion on the consequences of South Africa’s occupation.
In 1971 the World Court advised that South Africa’s presence in South West Africa was unlawful. South Africa held that it was not bound by the advisory opinion of the World Court. A visit to South Africa and Namibia in March 1971 by, the Secretary General of the UN, Dr Kurt Waldheim, ended in a deadlock with Prime Minister Vorster. Further attempts to negotiate a solution to the dispute failed. To pursue their policy of partitioning the territory into a series of ‘independent’ ethnic states the South African Parliament passed the ‘Development of Self-Government for Native Nations in South West Africa Amendment Act’ in 1973. This provided for ‘self-government’ in Ovamboland and East Caprivi. The UN responded by recognising SWAPO as the only lawful representative of the population of Namibia.
During the next two years South Africa deployed a large police and military force to the territory to protect White farmers in outlying areas from terrorist attacks, and to protect Blacks who had not joined SWAPO from intimidation. South Africa persisted in extending apartheid to Namibia in the face of all international opposition.
With the collapse of Portuguese rule in Mozambique South Africa’s position was weakened on its eastern borders because Mozambique was taken over by the Marxist-oriented Frelimo regime. UN pressure increased. The Security Council threatened South Africa with expulsion if it did not recognise the territorial and national integrity of Namibia by withdrawing South African administration. While seeking to protect White interests, security and law and order, South Africa attempted to placate international criticism in an attempt to prevent a communist-backed SWAPO government from coming to power in Namibia.
It changed its policy of partition and sought to establish a federation of Black states in Namibia. The South African government hoped this would meet UN demands for the preservation of the national integrity of Namibians, while allowing Whites to retain control over the greater part of its resources. To bring this plan to fruition representatives of the various ethnic regions met at the Windhoek Turnhalle in September 1975 to work out a federal constitution based on ethnic states. Some of the social aspects of apartheid were abandoned. SWAPO and the UN rejected it.
In 1976 the South African Government stalled on giving Namibia unilateral independence because the Zimbabwe election, where Robert Mugabe’s radical ZANU party won a resounding victory, had alerted South Africa to the likelihood of SWAPO sweeping to victory in Namibia. Mutual differences led to the collapse of the settlement attempt and arrangements for the elections were delayed under a variety of pretexts. The prolonged stalemate led to the establishment of an interim government, but the South African Government held back on pushing the territory into unilateral independence, maintaining it would allow UN-sponsored elections once agreement could be reached on the details.
In the meantime SWAPO stepped up its guerrilla activity and its political support in Namibia expanded. By 1981 a drastic economic downturn had occurred in Namibia. A general world depression had affected the prices of Namibia’s chief exports, diamonds, karakul, copper, and uranium. Drought and terrorism had crippled cattle ranchers, and the fishing industry was at low ebb, due to over-fishing during the 1970s. Whites began leaving Namibia in increasing numbers.
South Africa, equally hard-pressed, was finding Namibia less profitable and its Namibian subsidies and defence of that country were heavy burdens. Friction developed between the Administrator-General of the Territory appointed by the South African Government and ministers of the interim government, which collapsed in 1983 with the resignation of Chairman, Mr Dirk Mudge and the Council of Ministers. Direct South African rule through the Administrator-General was re-imposed.
South African troops repeatedly attacked SWAPO bases in Angola and openly supported Jonas Savimbi’s guerrilla struggle against the Angolan MPLA, causing the MPLA to call for more support from the Cuban troops. By 1983 as many as 20 000 South African soldiers were stationed in Namibia to combat SWAPO’s guerrilla forces. Cross-border raids continued until a massive invasion by South African forces into Angola saw South Africans occupying wide areas of the southern part of the country.
Both sides gained breathing space when an agreement was reached in Lusaka. The MPLA Government agreed that South African troops would withdraw from Angola and stop supporting UNITA, while the Angolan authorities would prevent SWAPO establishing bases on their territory. The Angolan authorities were unable to eliminate the SWAPO bases and South Africa did not complete its withdrawal.
During the Carter regime relations between the United States of America (USA) and South Africa deteriorated. The Reagan administration supported South Africa in its insistence that Cuba withdraw as a precondition for any settlement that would permit UN-sponsored elections in Namibia. In 1985 a new grouping of anti-SWAPO parties was formed and the idea of a Multiparty Conference (MPC) to form a transitional government was put forward. There was still no sign of a withdrawal of South African troops from the territory for fear that a SWAPO-dominated government, backed by Communists would be installed. In 1987 and 1988 South Africa increased the number of troops sent to the border and stepped up attacks against SWAPO fighters in Angola. At the end of the decade, Namibia’s future remained unresolved.
A Joint Commission, instituted in 1988 supervised the implementation of UN Resolution 435 for the independence of Namibia and monitored Namibian/Angolan peace initiatives. Independence was achieved after negotiations were conducted between South Africa, Western powers, the UN and the South West African Peoples’ Organization (SWAPO). The settlement was signed in New York in December 1988.
The New York agreement led in turn to the Namibian independence election in which democratic principles had been inserted into the independence process by the Western powers. SWAPO won 57% of the votes, but as this was not an absolute majority, other parties also took part in the drafting of the constitution. It contained, in the words of Professor Gerhard Erasmus of Stellenbosch University, “a remarkable set of finely tuned checks and balances on the exercise of power”.
Six parliamentary opposition parties were supported by 43% of the electorate. In 1991 national reconciliation was still the watchword, capital was still largely White-controlled, and the fishing and uranium industries had taken a downturn. South Africa cut its subsidies and totted up a bill of R700-million, which it said Namibia must pay. At that stage it was still withholding Walvis Bay, Namibia’s trade lifeline, but, by 1994, the city had been returned to Namibia. By then South Africa, led by Nelson Mandela’s Government of National Unity, and the SWAPO Government had embarked on a policy of national reconciliation. SWAPO, having adopted a policy of caution concerning economic and social reform, was proving Namibia to be one of the most democratic states in Africa.