Protecting Fort Namutoni's heritage

22 January 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



The National Heritage Council of Namibia and Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) have agreed to cooperate in maintaining historical sites such as Fort Namutoni in the Etosha National Park.

Annual assessments of these buildings will be done and any areas of concern that are identified will be addressed, the two organisations said in joint press statement. In December, photos were circulated on social media showing the dilapidated state of Namutoni. “Upon physical inspection, it came to light that only a few rooms were not in good condition,” the statement reads. It claimed that these rooms were not open to the public, and that the photographer had forcibly entered them. “Constructive feedback and criticism are valuable. However, criticism with malice, intended to destroy or achieve a specific plan, cannot be accommodated because it can result in unintended consequences such as destroying that which is dear to all of us, namely, the country's national assets treasures,” the statement reads.



Renovation

According to NWR spokesperson Mufaro Nesongano, the damage was minimal.

He said after the photos were circulated on social media the Heritage Council received many questions from international guests about the state of the Fort and they then had a meeting and informed them about their plans. NWR has said that the envisioned renovation of the Fort is estimated to cost N$20 million.

Nesongano said they are looking at a phased approach for renovation, considering that the capital required to do a full renovation is unavailable.

NWR has since cleaned the areas shown in the photographs and said it would do periodic clean-ups until it has renovated the Fort.

Fort Namutoni was declared a national heritage site on 15 February 1950 by the then Historical Monuments Commission of South West Africa (HMC). This later became the National Heritage Council of Namibia (NHC) in 2004.

In preparation for the Etosha National Park Centenary celebrations in 2007, renovations were carried out at various NWR facilities, including Namutoni Resort.The work done at Namutoni Resort included alterations and renovations to Fort Namutoni after permission was granted by the NHC, according to the statement.

In particular, the Fort was transformed into a one-stop-shop for all client activities, such as shops, a bar, a restaurant and curio shops.

“However, these changes were not positively received by the market and, as a result, numerous complaints from the clients and the public were received,” the statement said.

The Fort was then closed to the public in 2013, and all client services were moved to the current resort restaurant and shop areas.

The rationale was to restore the Fort to its previous state before 2007 in line with customer demands. However, due to budgetary constraints, NWR could not execute the envisioned plan of restoring the Fort. Thus, the Fort was closed to the public until renovations could be done.