The Leader of the Official Opposition and President of the PDM, Honorable McHenry Venaani has learned that the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Dr. Cyril Ramaphosa will arrive in Namibia in due course to engage in bilateral talks with the President of the Republic of Namibia, His Excellency Dr. Hage Geingob.
To that end, the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Honorable McHenry Venaani impresses upon the President, Dr. Hage Geingob to include in his discussions the matter of the Transboundary Water (Dis)agreement.
As is a common cause, the Orange River forms the international border between South Africa and Namibia, however, the precise geographical location thereof remains an issue of contention. A treaty between Britain and Germany concluded during the colonial era of 1890 set the demarcation of the border at the high-water level of the northern bank. Although
leading up to the independence of Namibia, promises were made that the border would be moved to the middle of the Orange River, however decades later and no such formal agreement has been concluded.
This is despite the location of the said border being enshrined in Namibia’s Constitution, under Article 1 (4): “The national territory of Namibia shall consist of the whole of the territory recognized by the international community through the organs of the United Nations as Namibia, including the enclave, harbor, 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.” It is worth noting that the border delineation has imperative implications for the Orange River water use, since the current border, would prevent Namibia from independently accessing the water.
In September 1992 a Permanent Water Commission (PWC) was established between South Africa and Namibia to advise the Governments on matters pertaining to the development of the Lower Orange River which forms the border between South Africa and Namibia. The PWC replaced the Joint Technical Committee (JTC) was established in 1987 and functioned in the transitional period before Namibia became independent in 1990. Namibia also entered into an agreement with South Africa in 1992 on the establishment of a Joint Irrigation Authority for the Noordoewer (in Namibia) and Vioolsdrift (in South Africa) irrigation scheme that is located on both sides of the border along the Lower Orange River. Both of the above-mentioned bilateral Commissions did, however, not conform to the concept that the management of internationally shared rivers should be done on a multi-lateral, basin-wide scale by all basin States.
Hence, the Orange River’s high level of institutionalized water cooperation has the potential to alleviate and redress socio-economic challenges domestically, whilst also providing sustainable and collaborative expansion of intra- and inter water basin transfers which would help alleviate competition over scarce water resources.
In closing, the Honorable Venaani calls upon President Geingob to solemnly engage in discussions around this matter during the bilateral deliberations with President Ramaphosa.