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Namibia's orange river boundary — origin and reemerged effects of an inattentive colonial boundary delimination


From the above and beside the securing of water rights for the national mining industry, the irrigation clusters scattered as if pearls along the Orange River's N bank are of an obviously unrenouncable significance for the Namibian agricultural production. In any case, it is clearly of utmost importance for Windhoek to secure the possession of the N flood plain by a boundary accord to be reached as soon as possible. This should determine as a minimal solution the border line finally along the low water mark, or, certainly more advantageous for the country, following the rivers median line. Even more so because, in spite of the high costs this would entail due to the lack of infrastructure in the inaccessible Orange gorge, the future extending potential of the irrigation schemes on the N bank are be estimated at least on 7800 ha (Otzen 1989) which is six times the developed irrigation area at the present stage and more than the actual overall Namibian irrigated cultivation area.

In order to strengthen the claim to all areas presently disputed between the Republics of Namibia and South Africa and backed by several in international law not binding UN General Assembly resolutions, the Windhoek Constitutional Assembly resolved Article 1 (4) of the new Namibian constitution: “The national of Namibia shall consist of the whole of territory recognised by the international community through the organs of the United Nations as Namibia, including the enclave, harbour and port of Walvis Bay, as well as the off-shore islands of Namibia, and its southern boundary shall extend to the middle of the Orange River.” Secret negotiations have been taking place since 21st March 1990 but as in the case of the much disputed possession of Walvis Bay, the Republic of South Africa cannot be forced to accept the low water line or the now constitutionally claimed median line as the revised Orange River boundary. South Africa remains internationally unsuable and the small Namibia is presently unable to put pressure on the leading regional power. On the contrary, such a substantial revision of the failures of the late German colonial administration seems only be attainable, if it all, after a phase of ‘positive development’ in Windhoek, so to be recognised by Pretoria, which then could be result in a voluntary surrender of the South African claim to the N bank to seal then hopefully reached good neighbourly relations between the Republic of South Africa and the recently emerged Republic of Namibia.

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Demhardt, I.J. Namibia's orange river boundary — origin and reemerged effects of an inattentive colonial boundary delimination. GeoJournal 22, 355–362 (1990).

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