Gates open on 14 October for all to visit Oranjemund
The Münders are going full out to open their secluded town to the rest of the world.
Come 14 October this year, Oranjemund that has always been protected by its isolation, will become an integrated part with the rest of Namibia.
The completion of the 100 km stretch of road between Rosh Pinah and Oranjemund is the catalyst in changing the fortunes of this mining town forever. In the past, any traveller to Oranjemund had to be signed in by the Namdeb security team at the gate just outside Rosh Pinah. Then followed a rather arduous trip along the gravel road which hugged the banks of the Orange River for long distances with many potentially hazardous rises and unexpected turns.
The new tarred road follows the old gravel road in some of the more open areas but it has been rerouted in the most dangerous spots. The new road also gives the mine at Sendelingsdrift a wide berth although it still passes fairly close to the diamond mine at Daberas.
As a sign of the relaxation of the former very strict security measures, the monitoring of traffic at the checkpoint outside Rosh Pinah has now been taken over by private security company G4S. Special authorisation from Namdeb is no longer required and the guards only make a log entry of the driver and number of passengers. Any person can now travel from Rosh Pinah to Oranjemund and back, 24 hours day and night, without any restriction.
A Rosh Pinah resident told the Economist the new road to Oranjemund is an absolute pleasure to drive. It is well designed and even banked on the curves so that a steady 120 km/h can be maintained. “From Rosh Pinah to Springbok in South Africa now takes me about 50 minutes less than going through Noordoewer,” he said.
Oranjemund recently held a fundraiser, assisted by First National Bank, in preparation for the opening of the gates, as the Münders popularly refer to the big event on 14 October. This is when the strict security they have been accustomed to all their lives, is no longer an impediment for both business and tourist travel.
The town is bargaining on its attractions to entice tourists. The process to prepare Oranjemund for entry into ordinary Namibian life has been started several years ago, facilitated and funded in no small measure by its patron for more than a century, the Namdeb diamond mining conglomerate.
A natural tourist route is in place from Alexanderbaai in South Africa across the Orange River bridge and into Oranjemund. The new road to Rosh Pinal links the coastal town to the interior and from there northward to Aus, also a tarred trunk road for the past eight years. This opens the tourist potential of Oranjemund since both self-drives and tour buses can now travel to the town on all-weather roads, all the way from Windhoek.
The new road also opens up the link from South Africa so that tourists travelling through Alexanderbaai can enter Namibia at the border post near Oranjemund. There is only one problem, the bridge across the Orange River is a single lane structure, unable to accommodate high loads of traffic. For this a solution still has to be found. A further restriction on travel exists in the hours of the border post on the South African side. It operates only between 06:00 and 22:00.
At the fundraiser, Oranjemund Mayor, His Worship Henry Coetzee said “We are extremely excited about the new chapter that will see the opening of the town to all Namibians as well as tourists and investors.”
Captured at the fundraiser, from the left, Eugene Cloete, the FNB Oranjemund Branch Manager, Tony Bessinger, the Town Transformation and Sustainability Manager, His Worship the Mayor, Mr Henry Coetzee, Renardo Cloete, the bank’s Branch Administrator, Brian Kandanga, FNB’s Area Sales and Service Manager Coastal & Southern with fellow FNB staff members.