Rene Stegmann: Journeying Into the Unknown; Our Trip to Namibia

This article was written by Relocation Director Rene Stegmann.

Cape Town is cold and wet in the winter, so the Stegmanns strategically planned their African adventures in the June/July winter school holidays, to benefit from slightly warmer climates north of Cape Town. This year the destination was Namibia (again). We’ve been to Namibia in 2011, 2013, and travelled through the country in 2016 – it is our favourite country to visit.

We usually travel with other families, but this year we decided to go solo, which is a little nerve racking, as so much can go wrong travelling alone along long, gravel roads in Africa. Saying that, Namibia is fairly safe, so the worst that may happen is being stranded on the side of the road waiting for help for a while – it’s not uncommon to drive 250km between towns in Namibia, and we passed one ‘town’ called Spes Bona, which comprised 5 farm houses and a couple of sheds. I guess part of what makes these trips so much fun is the adventures that they bring, and the stories that we can share for years to come based on the experiences we have while traveling around our beautiful continent.

It’s a fairly long drive from Cape Town to the Namibian border, so we spent the night on the West Coast at a place called Hondeklipbaai (which directly translated is ‘Dog Stone Bay’) – we did not get to see if there were dog shaped stones, but we were certainly in a bay. We arrived late and left early, so unfortunately did not get to adventure much there. To the border we went. Border posts are usually busy, but this one, which is called Oranjemund (translated this means Orange Mouth – it is where the Orange River flows into the sea), was quiet. We breezed through the SA side, and drove across the river.

On the Namibian side, it was pretty easy until a lady said, “Do you have any meat?”. Bearing in mind, we are just about to spend 2 weeks in a country with very few corner shops with decent meat or milk (I think we drove past 3 in the 2,800km we drove in Namibia), this was going to be a problem! I said “just a few items, why?” Apparently not widely advertised on websites where I did my research is that there is a foot-and-mouth disease risk with meat from South Africa. I understand that meat from other sources other than our strictly controlled supermarkets like Woolworths or Pick ‘n Pay could be problematic, but vacuum-packed meat should be fine.

Anyway, we had two choices: Hand over the meat on the Namibian side and they would destroy it, or drive it back to SA and give it to the border control people. We decided to do the latter, and the border officials were very appreciative of a week’s supply of good quality meat. (Note to self; call the Department of Agriculture before you travel outside SA for more accurate information).

We then continued our journey on pretty good roads to Aus, and stayed at Eagles Nest – part of the Gondwana Klein Aus Collection. These were fabulous huts, tucked away in rocky mountains. They also have 68 km of mountain bike trails which we discovered, as well as some incredible hikes. We thoroughly enjoyed the warmer days and adventuring in this area.

Namibia has a population of around 2.5 million, in a country twice the size of California, and the only independent states with lower population densities are Mongolia, Monaco, and Greenland. Driving around Namibia, you certainly feel the space around you – you can drive for miles and not see a single person or car. I guess this is why we chose Namibia, as we really wanted a proper break from life in the big city – the Cape Town Metropolitan area has a population of 3.7 million people. There was also no mobile network signal, and certainly no Wi-Fi, so we connected with our teenagers too.

We then headed to Kanaan, which is a great location for staring at the stars, playing board games, hiking, cycling to a refreshing reservoir pool, and relaxing while overlooking a vast plain, just contemplating life.

This area is an International Dark Sky reserve. The area is therefore protected, and there is no artificial light, so one can look up at the billions of stars, and get a spectacular view of the Milky Way. It really gives one the opportunity to see the raw beauty that nature has to offer, and to think about how we are impacting our planet.

The next section of our trip took us to the Namibian Wildlife Reserve’s (NWR) Nauklauft National Park. The roads got rough, to the point we were having to drive on the wrong side of the road, as the corrugations in the surface were so bad. It is certainly worth putting on good tyres – Goodrich are my tyres of choice for all off-road driving! Nauklauft has some incredible hiking. I think NWR could certainly do with some help with getting better information to their visitors – maps were terrible, but the route markings were alright.

8 km into the 10 km hike we were doing through a gorge, there was a section that our usual travel companions who suffer from vertigo would have been unable to complete. There was a metal chain you needed to hold onto to traverse a 20 m section, which had a vertical drop of 15 m into a rocky ravine!

Another interesting fact, which I only discovered after writing this article, is that Namibia has the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs, at around 3000. This is interesting, as even though we were walking in the reserve on our own, we came across two young zebra legs, which meant there certainly was some wild animal around, and it was either a leopard, or one of these free-roaming cheetahs. Most national parks that have knowledge that there are cheetahs or leopards in the park usually warn you. I guess it says a lot about the relaxed attitude of most Namibians, who are a wonderfully friendly people.

Our next stop was Sossusvlei, and we decided to stay in the NWR park, as it allowed us to see the dunes at sunset and sunrise – for photographs this is really special, as the campsite is past the reserve gates, which only open at 7 am.

There are two well-known dunes; Dune 45, which is apparently the most photographed dune in the world, and Big Daddy, which is the largest dune in Sossusvlei, measuringing 325 meters tall. They both were breathtaking to look at, and even more breathtaking to climb! I believe they are some of the tallest dunes in the world.

We also learned that at the bottom of the dunes, the white, hard clay patches with dead trees are from a river called the Tsauchab River, which flooded thousands of years ago, leaving these white, hard patches of salty, cracked earth, and caused the acacia trees to ‘freeze’. The view from the top of Big Daddy leaves a lasting impression of a sea of dunes, and is definitely worth a visit.

Our next stay was in Duwisib Castle, which sounds lovely, but I would state that NWR again needs to look at how to preserve their heritage, as this was a lovely castle with a great story, but sadly left to ruin. It was a great change to have someone else making supper for us, and it was our first night out of 11 not camping. At breakfast, we watched Donald Trump meet with Kim Jong Un on the BBC feed playing on the TV that was bolted to the castle walls.

Our final stop was the Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the world, but the most beautiful in my opinion. Again, the roads were literally hair-raising, and I reckon a kidney belt was almost necessary to get across some stretches of the road. We saw remnants of car tyres littered all over Namibia, which gave us a clear indication of the condition of some of the roads.

It was wonderful finally having electricity in our campsite for the last 2 nights of the holiday, at Hobas, the NWR camp at the Fish River Canyon. We’d survived on solar-charged batteries and gas up to this point, however our gas-powered heater was very welcome in keeping us warm as we played our final board game, sipping hot chocolate in our tent before finally packing up for the 850 km drive back to Cape Town the following morning.

Namibia is a country I really enjoy travelling through. It is home to the world’s oldest desert, the Namib, which is over 55 million years old, and stretches over 2000 km along the Atlantic coasts of Namibia, South Africa and Angola.

If you are a keen photographer, the country offers many wonderful opportunities to test your skills in an environment quite different to the one most of us live in.

We didn’t get up to the capital, Windhoek, to do research for our clients, but holidays are for taking a break from work, and I’ll be very happy to go up there any time to do the research, if the team need me to do so one day. For now, I’ve got many memories of picturesque Namibia to keep me going until my next trip.

 

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Michal Průcha [1], [2].

Germany to Return 15th Century Navigation Landmark to Namibia

In a response that might lead to further artefacts being returned to Africa, a German museum has said it would return to Namibia a 15th-century navigation landmark that Portuguese explorers erected on the coast.
The navigation landmark is the padrao or stone cross erected at what soon became known as Cape Cross, north of Walvis Bay, by the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão in 1486.

Cão had sailed the African coast seeking a way into the Indian Ocean and reached as far south as 22°10 S before turning back.

Before doing so he left his final “marker” on a small headland that as early as 1500 was being shown on maps as “Cape Cross”.

The next explorer to pass that way was Bartolomeu Dias who succeeded in becoming the first European to round the southernmost tip of Africa when he sailed into the Indian Ocean in 1488.

Dias went only as far as a little north of Algoa Bay before turning back, leaving the glory of opening a trade route to India to Vasco da Gama whose sailing along the east coast on Christmas Day, 1497 left us with the name of “Natal”.

The stone cross at Cape Cross remained a useful marker to all navigators. Carved from sandstone and weighing more than a tonne most were able to withstand the ravages of time, but not always of man. Some are thought to have been destroyed by the inhabitants of the land on which they were planted by a European race claiming the land. Others, like that at Cape Cross, were later removed elsewhere.

The padrao at Cape Cross was one that remained in situ until the 1890s when the occupying Germans removed it to Germany. In 2006, the cross went on display at the the German Historical Museum in Berlin.

In 2017, Namibian authorities began requesting its return, which has been acceded and which might prove to be the start of a return to Namibia of other artefacts and even human remains.

Namibian ambassador to Germany, Andreas Guibeb, described the return of the cross as “important as a step for us to reconcile with our colonial past and the trail of humiliation and systematic injustice that it left behind”.

German culture minister Monika Gruetters said the restitution of the stone cross of Cape Cross was a clear signal that Germany was committed to coming to terms with its colonial past.

“For too many decades, the colonial time has been a blind spot in our remembrance culture,” she said.

The museum pointed out that while it has agreed to return the 533-year-old cross, despite it not being of African origin, it acknowledged the outstanding significance an artefact like this padrao had on the people of Namibia and the special contribution it could make on site in the future of understanding Namibia’s history.

The cross, it said, highlighted how “descendants from Europe and Africa can engage in dialogue that does historical justice” to it.

The Cape Cross padrao is 3.5m high and weighs 1.1 tonnes and, as with the others, was intended to be seen from out at sea.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3]. Image sources: [1], [2].

New Research Study Looks to Empower Namibian Communities to Champion Environmental Conservation

Namibian Environmental Awareness Training (NEAT) has just launched a three-month research project in the Kunene region in northwest Namibia to understand the relationship and interactions between rural communities and the regions’ iconic nature and wildlife. This study will allow NEAT to develop tailored environmental education programmes for schools and communities, to empower them to actively engage in and benefit from nature conservation.

The Kunene region is one of Namibia’s last wildernesses and home to rare desert-adapted elephants, rhinos and lions, as well as numerous other endangered species. Himba, Herero, Damara, San people and many other indigenous communities also live in the region, often in remote villages and in direct contact with nature and wild animals.

Rural livelihoods often depend on natural resources and are affected by human-wildlife conflict or environmental disasters such as droughts. Wildlife populations are also under pressure, facing threats from habitat loss and illegal poaching. NEAT’s research and education programme will address these issues together, recognising that human prosperity and biodiversity conservation are inextricably linked.

NEAT started the research study on Sunday, 3rd March 2019. Over the coming three months, a team of four conservationists and educators will visit eight different communities from across the entire Kunene region and interview adults, children and school teachers. Two experienced UK-based scientists will assist with data analysis. The results will be shared with Namibian school directors and the Minister of Education, who have already expressed their interest in this study.

The project is led by NEAT founder Steven Maseka, an award-winning Namibian environmentalist who previously worked in Namibia’s world-renowned Community Based Natural Resources Management programme and featured in the 2018 BBC documentary Pangolins – The World’s Most Wanted Animal.

The first phase of the project is supported by crowdfunding, and you can help immensely by donating here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], Richard van Wijngaarden [2].

Relocation Africa – a Brief History

A Brief History

As the New South Africa was being born and South Africa was on the world stage, Relocation Africa started in 1993 in Johannesburg, South Africa, providing homefinding services to expatriates moving into Johannesburg. In 1997 the Cape Town branch was opened and Immigration services were included into the offering to support the client’s needs and in 1999 the international payment service was incorporated to support international clients needs to transact expatriate’s payments in South Africa.

In 2000 the Relocation Africa head-office was consolidated to Cape Town and an internal web-based system was developed to support the needs of the business and facilitate the centralised head office business model. The business decided to register a sister company called Global Expatriate Management (GEM) to take over the payments services as well as starting a payroll solution for clients who had regional offices across Africa but with a centralised payroll head office in South Africa.

Africa
In 2002 we made the strategic decision to expand relocation services into Africa. The network of consultants being recruited across Africa were able to provide housing data so in 2004 GEM formalised this housing data into a formal housing survey. We now run these biannual surveys across most countries in Africa. In 2005 GEM expanded to collect cost of living data with a network of field workers across Africa.

In 2006, due to client demand, we started expanding immigration services into other African countries. Our next key step was formalising a training department within the business in 2008 – prior to that, it had been the responsibility of the account managers to recruit and train consultants. The business has grown organically over the interleading years due to some key staff who always worked above and beyond what was asked of them.

In 2013 Relocation Africa rebranded into the Relocation Africa Group incorporating GEM’s services to formalise the service offering to clients with our four divisions, being Mobility, Immigration, Research and Remuneration.

Each division has a colour, icon and animal assigned with it and we use this branding to differentiate our services.


Immigration Services

Immigration Services

Immigration

Immigration Services


Destination Services

Destination Services

Destination Services

Destination Services


Research

Research

Research

Research


Payroll & Payments

Payroll & Payments

Payroll & Payments

Payroll & Payments


Africa is an exciting space to be working and we strive to deliver a consistent quality of service to all clients no matter where the services are delivered in Africa.

Being a cog in the machinery facilitating the development of skills across Africa is what drives the management of Relocation Africa to help upskill Africa.

GOLDweblogo_curveIn 2016 we discovered an inspiring organisation called Generation of Leaders Discovered or GOLD for short (www.goldpe.org.za). The are based in Cape Town near our head office, and they have an inspiring model which gives hope and skills to Africa’s disenfranchised youth. They identify young opinion leaders in communities and invite them to go through their program, they give them hope, give them skills and enable them to become peer educators and role models within their peer groups. The results of their programs is astonishing. Please email us if you would like to know more about GOLD and what they do.

We are currently developing an internship program with GOLD and we are building a relationship with them as what they do fits in with our philosophy of helping to develop skills across Africa.

Our Promise

Embracing the Unknown

Our Vision

Our vision is to be the preferred supplier in Africa of trusted seamless relocation services to our clients to ensure their assignees become effective employees quickly.

Our Mission

Our mission is to remain a reliable and consistent quality managed provider of a comprehensive range of services to companies moving assignees into Africa, by removing the fear of the unknown continent.

Namibia’s president has made his ministers’ performance agreements public If you haven’t already fallen in love with Nam’s no-nonsense ‘new’ president, here’s one more reason you should… he’s making all his ministers’ performance expectations public for all Namibians to see. By Gerhard Jacobs – January 25, 2016

As part of president Geingob’s relentless efforts to root out corruption and create a culture of transparent governance in Namibia; his prime minister recently announced that anyone will be able to have a look at all cabinet minsters’ performance agreements at his office.

Last year we reported that in his first few weeks of being president, Geingob told his parliament that it certainly won’t be business as usual and that anyone who wanted to serve in his government would have to choose between serving the people and serving themselves.  Geingob warned his government that no-one will be allowed to have any businesses on the side and that he’d come down on corrupt officials like a tonne of bricks.

Now it looks like he really is taking them to task. Every one of Geingob’s ministers have committed themselves to performance based outcomes that the Namibian public can now hold them to; these include:

  • Eradication of poverty
  • Industrialisation
  • Reduction of income disparities and
  • Employment creation

Permanent secretaries are expected to submit quarterly reports on the progress of their respective ministry and the relevant ministers will then send their progress reports to Geingob a month before the year ends.

Geingob will then hold an evaluation session with each minister after two months.

According to The Namibian, some of the agreements are a bit vague, but most of themclearly set out what is expected of the ministers:

  • Minister of environmental affairs Pohamba Shifeta is committed to training 20 people each year in a selected field in tourism and to create 199 jobs in his attempt to eradicate poverty.
  • Finance minister Calle Schlettwein must  improve foreign reserves with an annual target of three months’ import cover.
  • Land reform minister Utoni Nuyoma expects to have acquired 188 000 hectares of land for resettlement in his bid for distribution of land.
  • Gender minister Doreen Sioka will have around 37 000 children enrolled at early childhood development centres in an attempt to improve opportunities for better living standards of children.

These agreements were signed off by Geingob with Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa as witness, last year October.

Imagine if we could  do this here in South Africa… just imagine.

Image Credits:Getty

Image Credits:Getty

http://www.thesouthafrican.com/namibias-president-has-made-his-ministers-performance-agreements-public/