NWR downplays Namutoni decay
News - National | 2021-01-21
by Arlana Shikongo
NAMIBIA Wildlife Resorts (NWR) says only a few rooms in Fort Namutoni are not in good condition, contrary to the decay seen throughout the national heritage site in pictures taken in December.
Furthermore, the state-owned resorts company maintains the areas which photos showed in a more dilapidated state were meant to remain closed to the public.
NWR was last year criticised when images of a dilapidated interior and exterior of the fort in Etosha National Park started circulating after a visitor to Namutoni shared pictures on social media.
The images revealed a trashed and decayed interior of the fort, which was covered in debris and falling apart in some sections.
In a joint statement issued by NWR and the National Heritage Council of Namibia on Wednesday, the institutions defended the state of the fort, saying only a few rooms were not in a good condition.
Furthermore, the photographed areas of the fort were purportedly closed to the public in the past, it was stated.
"It also came to light that, even though the rooms in the fort were inaccessible to the general public, forced entry was made to gain access to the rooms, especially the rooms from which photos were taken and circulated," the statement said.
Welcoming constructive criticism, the organisations shunned actions of malice which intended to destroy or achieve a specific plan.
"[This] 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 asset treasures," the statement said.
At the time the pictures began circulating, The Namibian spoke to the visitor who took the photos, former park ranger Phillip Steyn. He said the fort was open upon his visit, which he said was not the case when he last visited Namutoni two years earlier.
"The gate is standing open. Everything is open. Tourists are walking back and forth. There was no single sign saying 'no entry'.
"I was there two years ago. By then the fort was open but you couldn't get access to the rooms or anything like that. You could only get into the courtyard and you could get up to the tower. Back then everything was locked," he detailed.
The Namibian understands that NWR has since cleaned up parts of the fort and once again ensured that the public do not have access to spaces which still need to undergo renovation.
People who have subsequently visited the fort have informed the newspaper that the fort is boarded and closed, with no access to visitors.
NWR last carried out renovations on the fort at Namutoni in 2007, with plans arising again in 2013 to restore the historic building.
"However, due to budgetary constraints, NWR could not execute the envisioned plan of restoring the fort. Thus, the fort was closed off," the resorts company and heritage council stated.
NWR previously detailed that it would need at least N$20 million to restore the more than century-old fort to its former glory, but could not do so at the time because of budgetary constraints.