Namibia upsets Japan, New Zealand to secure top travel awards

12Feb 2019
Correpondent
The Guardian
Namibia upsets Japan, New Zealand to secure top travel awards

Namibia won the highly desired Top Country Spot at the recent Wanderlust Readers' Travel Awards, announced at 'Destinations:

The Holiday and Travel Show at Olympia in West Kensington, London, England on 31 January.

Wanderlust is considered as the must-read magazine for the independently-minded and curious traveler in the United Kingdom.

Namibia took the lead ahead of Japan and New Zealand, who secured the second and third position respectively. The only two African countries that featured in the Top Country Category were Namibia and South Africa, with the latter securing the 7 spot.

"Having tracked rhinos there, I can personally testify that Namibia is a success story, with wildlife still flourishing both inside and outside the national parks, really adding to the visitor experience," said Wanderlust Magazine's Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Lyn Hughes.

The British market remains an important source market for Namibia, where the country has had a presence since 1994. In 2018, a total of 33450 United Kingdom tourists (out of a total of 1.4 million visitors world-wide) visited Namibia, and thus is the second largest European market for Namibia.

"This is fantastic achievement for Namibia. Our country has won the highest accolade for adventure travel destinations in the British market. We are even happier since Namibia regained its position as 'number one' country, which we previously had secured in 2014," said Maureen Posthuma, Head of Marketing at the Namibia Tourism Board.

Meanwhile, Bärbel Kirchner, Account Director of Team Namibia stressed that it is extremely difficult to enter the European market, adding that Namibia is one of hundreds of countries and one of thousands of tourist destinations that compete for the attention of holiday makers.

"As Namibians we can be incredibly proud, and indeed also recognise that our country is top class for discerning travelers. As Namibians we can further stimulate and support our own economy by buying local, and this includes travel services and holidaying in our own beautiful country," Kirchner said.

Namibia officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in southern Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean; it shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 metres of the Zambezi River (essentially a small bulge in Botswana to achieve a Botswana/Zambia micro-border) separates the two countries.

Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek, and it is a member state of the United Nations (UN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the Commonwealth of Nations. 

Namibia, the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, was inhabited since early times by the San, Damara, and Nama peoples. Around the 14th century, immigrating Bantu peoples arrived as part of the Bantu expansion. Since then, the Bantu groups, one of which is known as the Ovambo people, have dominated the population of the country; since the late 19th century, they have constituted a majority. 

In 1878, the Cape of Good Hope, then a British colony, had annexed the port of Walvis Bay and the offshore Penguin Islands; these became an integral part of the new Union of South Africa at its creation in 1910. In 1884 the German Empire established rule over most of the territory as a protectorate (Schutzgebiet). It began to develop infrastructure and farming and maintained this German colony until 1915, when South African forces defeated its military. In 1920, after the end of World War I, the League of Nations mandated the country to the United Kingdom, under administration by South Africa.

It imposed its laws, including racial classifications and rules. 

From 1948, with the National Party elected to power, South Africa applied apartheid also to what was then known as South West Africa. 

In the later 20th century, uprisings and demands for political representation by native African political activists seeking independence resulted in the UN assuming direct responsibility over the territory in 1966, but South Africa maintained de facto rule.

In 1973 the UN recognised the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people; the party is dominated by the Ovambo, who are a large plurality in the territory. Following continued guerrilla warfare, South Africa installed an interim administration in Namibia in 1985. Namibia obtained full independence from South Africa in 1990. However, Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands remained under South African control until 1994. 

Namibia has a population of 2.6 million people and a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, herding, tourism and the mining industry – including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals – form the basis of its economy.

The large, arid Namib Desert has resulted in Namibia being overall one of the least densely populated countries in the world

The name of the country is derived from the Namib Desert, considered to be the oldest desert in the world. The name, Namib itself, is of Nama origin and means "vast place". Before its independence in 1990, the area was known first as German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika), then as South-West Africa, reflecting the colonial occupation by the Germans and the South Africans (technically on behalf of the British crown reflecting South Africa's dominion status within the British Empire). 

History

Pre-colonial period

The dry lands of Namibia have been inhabited since early times by San, Damara, and Nama. Around the 14th century, immigrating Bantu people began to arrive during the Bantu expansion from central Africa. 

From the late 18th century onward, Oorlam people from Cape Colony crossed the Orange River and moved into the area that today is southern Namibia. Their encounters with the nomadic Nama tribes were largely peaceful. They received the missionaries accompanying the Oorlam very well, granting them the right to use waterholes and grazing against an annual payment. On their way further northwards, however, the Oorlam encountered clans of the Herero at Windhoek, Gobabis, and Okahandja, who resisted their encroachment.

The Nama-Herero War broke out in 1880, with hostilities ebbing only after the German Empire deployed troops to the contested places and cemented the status quo among the Nama, Oorlam, and Herero. The first Europeans to disembark and explore the region were the Portuguese navigators Diogo Cão in 1485 and Bartolomeu Dias in 1486, but the Portuguese crown did not try to claim the area.

Like most of interior Sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia was not extensively explored by Europeans until the 19th century. At that time traders and settlers came principally from Germany and Sweden. In the late 19th century, Dorsland Trekkers crossed the area on their way from the Transvaal to Angola. Some of them settled in Namibia instead of continuing their journey. 

German rule

Namibia became a German colony in 1884 under Otto von Bismarck to forestall perceived British encroachment and was known as German South West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika). However, the Palgrave Commission by the British governor in Cape Town had determined that only the natural deep-water harbor of Walvis Bay was worth occupying and thus annexed it to the Cape province of British South Africa. 

From 1904 to 1907, the Herero and the Namaqua took up arms against brutal German colonialism. In calculated punitive action by the German occupiers, government officials ordered extinction of the natives in the Herero and Namaqua genocide In what has been called the "first genocide of the Twentieth Century",[26] the Germans systematically killed 10,000 Nama (half the population) and approximately 65,000 Herero (about 80 per cent of the population).

The survivors, when finally released from detention, were subjected to a policy of dispossession, deportation, forced labor, racial segregation, and discrimination in a system that in many ways anticipated the apartheid established by South Africa in 1948. 

Most Africans were confined to so-called native territories, which later under South African rule after 1949 were turned into "homelands" (Bantustans). Indeed, some historians have speculated that the German genocide in Namibia was a model used by Nazis in the Holocaust. The memory of genocide remains relevant to ethnic identity in independent Namibia and to relations with Germany. The German government formally apologized for the Namibian genocide in 2004. 

South African mandate

During World War I, South African troops under General Louis Botha occupied the territory and deposed the German colonial administration. The end of the war and the Treaty of Versailles left South Africa in possession of South West Africa as a League of Nations mandate. The mandate system was formed as a compromise between those who advocated for an Allied annexation of former German and Turkish territories, and another proposition put forward by those who wished to grant them to an international trusteeship until they could govern themselves.

It permitted the South African government to administer South West Africa for an undefined period until that territory's inhabitants were prepared for political self-determination. However, South Africa interpreted the mandate as a veiled annexation and made no attempt to prepare South West Africa for future autonomy. As a result of the Conference on International Organization in 1945, the League of Nations was formally superseded by the United Nations (UN) and former League mandates by a trusteeship system.

Article 77 of the United Nations Charter stated that UN trusteeship "shall apply...to territories now held under mandate"; furthermore, it would "be a matter of subsequent agreement as to which territories in the foregoing territories will be brought under the trusteeship system and under what terms".

The UN requested all former League of Nations mandates be surrendered to its Trusteeship Council in anticipation of their independence. South Africa declined to do so and instead requested permission from the UN to formally annex South West Africa, for which it received considerable criticism. When the UN General Assembly rejected this proposal, South Africa dismissed its opinion as irrelevant and began solidifying control of the territory. The UN responded by deferring to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which held a number of discussions on the legality of South African rule between 1949 and 1966. 

South Africa began imposing apartheid, its codified system of racial segregation and discrimination, on South West Africa during the late 1940s. Black South West Africans were subject to pass laws, curfews, and a host of draconian residential regulations that heavily restricted their movement. Development was concentrated in the region of the country immediately adjacent to South Africa, formally denoted as the "Police Zone", where most of the German colonial era settlements and mines were also located. Outside the Police Zone, indigenous peoples were restricted to theoretically self-governing tribal homelands. 

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, pressure for global decolonisation and national self-determination began mounting on the African continent; these factors had a radical impact on South West African nationalism. Early nationalist organisations such as the South West African National Union (SWANU) and South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) made determined attempts to establish indigenous political structures for an independent South West Africa. In 1966, following the ICJ's controversial ruling that it had no legal standing to consider the question of South African rule, SWAPO launched an armed insurgency which escalated into part of a wider regional conflict known as the South African Border War. 

Independence

As SWAPO's insurgency intensified, South Africa's case for annexation in the international community continued to decline. The UN declared that South Africa had failed in its obligations to ensure the moral and material well-being of the indigenous inhabitants of South West Africa, and had thus disavowed its own mandate. On 12 June 1968, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which proclaimed that, in accordance with the desires of its people, South West Africa be renamed Namibia.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 269, adopted in August 1969, declared South Africa's continued occupation of Namibia illegal. In recognition of this landmark decision, SWAPO's armed wing was renamed the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). 

Namibia became one of several flashpoints for Cold War proxy conflicts in southern Africa during the latter years of the PLAN insurgency. The insurgents sought out weapons and sent recruits to the Soviet Union for military training. SWAPO's political leadership, dependent on military aid from the Soviets, Cuba, and Angola, positioned the movement within the socialist bloc by 1975.

This practical alliance reinforced the prevailing perspective of SWAPO as a Soviet proxy, which dominated Cold War ideology in South Africa and the United States. For its part, the Soviet Union supported SWAPO partly because it viewed South Africa as a regional Western ally. 

Growing war weariness and the reduction of tensions between the superpowers compelled South Africa, Angola, and Cuba to accede to the Tripartite Accord, under pressure from both the Soviet Union and the United States. South Africa accepted Namibian independence in exchange for a Cuban military withdrawal from the region and an Angolan commitment to cease all aid to PLAN.

PLAN and South Africa adopted an informal ceasefire in August 1988, and a United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) was formed to monitor the Namibian peace process and supervise the return of refugees. The ceasefire was broken after PLAN made a final incursion into the territory, possibly as a result of misunderstanding UNTAG's directives, in March 1989.

A new ceasefire was later imposed with the condition that the insurgents were to be confined to their external bases in Angola until they could be disarmed and demobilised by UNTAG. 

By the end of the eleven month transition period, the last South African troops had been withdrawn from Namibia, all political prisoners granted amnesty, racially discriminatory legislation repealed, and 42,000 Namibian refugees returned to their homes. Just over 97 per cent of eligible voters participated in the country's first parliamentary elections held under a universal franchise. SWAPO won a plurality of seats in the Constituent Assembly with 57 per cent of the popular vote. This gave the party 41 seats, but not a two-thirds majority which would have enabled it to draft the constitution on its own. 

The Namibian Constitution adopted in February 1990 incorporated protection for human rights, compensation for state expropriations of private property, and established an independent judiciary, legislature, and an executive presidency (the constituent assembly became the national assembly). The country officially became independent on 21 March 1990. Sam Nujoma was sworn in as the first President of Namibia at a ceremony attended by Nelson Mandela of South Africa (who had been released from prison the previous month) and representatives from 147 countries, including 20 heads of state. Upon the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994, the nation ceded Walvis Bay to Namibia. 

After independence

Since independence Namibia has completed the transition from white minority apartheid rule to parliamentary democracy. Multiparty democracy was introduced and has been maintained, with local, regional and national elections held regularly. Several registered political parties are active and represented in the National Assembly, although the SWAPO has won every election since independence. The transition from the 15-year rule of President Sam Nujoma to his successor Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2005 went smoothly. 

Since independence, the Namibian government has promoted a policy of national reconciliation. It issued an amnesty for those who had fought on either side during the liberation war. The civil war in Angola spilled over and adversely affected Namibians living in the north of the country. In 1998, Namibia Defence Force (NDF) troops were sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) contingent. In 1999, the national government quashed a secessionist attempt in the northeastern Caprivi Strip.[57] The Caprivi conflict was initiated by the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA), a rebel group led by Mishake Muyongo. It wanted the Caprivi Strip to secede in order to form its own society. Geography

At 825,615 km2 (318,772 sq mi), Namibia is the world's thirty-fourth largest country (after Venezuela). It lies mostly between latitudes 17° and 29°S (a small area is north of 17°), and longitudes 11° and 26°E. Being situated between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts, Namibia has the least rainfall of any country in sub-Saharan Africa.[59] The Namibian landscape consists generally of five geographical areas, each with characteristic abiotic conditions and vegetation, with some variation within and overlap between them: the Central Plateau, the Namib, the Great Escarpment, the Bushveld, and the Kalahari Desert. 

The Central Plateau runs from north to south, bordered by the Skeleton Coast to the northwest, the Namib Desert and its coastal plains to the southwest, the Orange River to the south, and the Kalahari Desert to the east. The Central Plateau is home to the highest point in Namibia at Königstein elevation 2,606 metres (8,550 ft). 

The Namib is a broad expanse of hyper-arid gravel plains and dunes that stretches along Namibia's entire coastline. It varies between 100 and many hundreds of kilometres in width. Areas within the Namib include the Skeleton Coast and the Kaokoveld in the north and the extensive Namib Sand Sea along the central coast. 

The Great Escarpment swiftly rises to over 2,000 metres (6,562 ft). Average temperatures and temperature ranges increase further inland from the cold Atlantic waters, while the lingering coastal fogs slowly diminish. Although the area is rocky with poorly developed soils, it is significantly more productive than the Namib Desert. As summer winds are forced over the Escarpment, moisture is extracted as precipitation. 

The Bushveld is found in north-eastern Namibia along the Angolan border and in the Caprivi Strip. The area receives a significantly greater amount of precipitation than the rest of the country, averaging around 400 mm (15.7 in) per year. The area is generally flat and the soils sandy, limiting their ability to retain water and support agriculture. The Kalahari Desert, an arid region that extends into South Africa and Botswana, is one of Namibia's well-known geographical features. The Kalahari, while popularly known as a desert, has a variety of localised environments, including some verdant and technically non-desert areas.

The Succulent Karoo is home to over 5,000 species of plants, nearly half of them endemic; approximately 10 percent of the world's succulents are found in the Karoo. The reason behind this high productivity and endemism may be the relatively stable nature of precipitation. 

Namibia's Coastal Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world. Its sand dunes, created by the strong onshore winds, are the highest in the world. Because of the location of the shoreline, at the point where the Atlantic's cold water reaches Africa's hot climate, often extremely dense fog forms along the coast. Near the coast there are areas where the dunes are vegetated with hammocks.[67] Namibia has rich coastal and marine resources that remain largely unexplored. 

Namibia extends from 17°S to 25°S latitude: climatically the range of the sub-Tropical High Pressure Belt. Its overall climate description is arid, descending from the Sub-Humid [mean rain above 500 mm (20 in)] through Semi-Arid [between 300 and 500 mm (12 and 20 in)] (embracing most of the waterless Kalahari) and Arid [from 150 to 300 mm (6 to 12 in)] (these three regions are inland from the western escarpment) to the Hyper-Arid coastal plain [less than 100 mm (4 in)]. Temperature maxima are limited by the overall elevation of the entire region: only in the far south, Warmbad for instance, are mid-40 °C (100 °F) maxima recorded. 

Typically the sub-Tropical High Pressure Belt, with frequent clear skies, provides more than 300 days of sunshine per year. It is situated at the southern edge of the tropics; the Tropic of Capricorn cuts the country about in half. The winter (June – August) is generally dry. Both rainy seasons occur in summer: the small rainy season between September and November, the big one between February and April.[70] Humidity is low, and average rainfall varies from almost zero in the coastal desert to more than 600 mm (24 in) in the Caprivi Strip. Rainfall is highly variable, and droughts are common.[71] The last rainy season with rainfall far below the annual average occurred in summer 2006/07. 

Weather and climate in the coastal area are dominated by the cold, north-flowing Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean, which accounts for very low precipitation (50 mm (2 in) per year or less), frequent dense fog, and overall lower temperatures than in the rest of the country. In Winter, occasionally a condition known as Bergwind (German for "mountain breeze") or Oosweer (Afrikaans for "east weather") occurs, a hot dry wind blowing from the inland to the coast. As the area behind the coast is a desert, these winds can develop into sand storms, leaving sand deposits in the Atlantic Ocean that are visible on satellite images. 

The Central Plateau and Kalahari areas have wide diurnal temperature ranges of up to 30 °C (54 °F). Efundja, the annual seasonal flooding of the northern parts of the country, often causes not only damage to infrastructure but loss of life. The rains that cause these floods originate in Angola, flow into Namibia's Cuvelai basin, and fill the oshanas (Oshiwambo: flood plains) there. The worst floods so far occurred in March 2011 and displaced 21,000 people. 

 

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