THE IMPACT OF LARGE DAMS ON RESETTLEMENT OF DISPLACED PEOPLE
when the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland broke up in 1963 and Zambia became independent in 1964, free movement ceased and border posts were established at Chirundu and Kariba. The separation from their friends and relatives was one of the most painful experiences connected with resettlement.
Continued from last week
INthe Legislative Council, Robinson Nabulyato also voiced against the resettlement of the Valley Tonga arguing that the policy would bring about hardships among the people because of sudden movement they were to be subjected to; Nabulyato’s sentiments came to nothing and the Valley Tonga had to “accept” the white man’s decision to leave their old homesteads.
When the Valley Tonga (the Plateau Tonga were not affected by the dam) were told that they should abandon their ancestral land and move to new lands that they knew were barren and hilly, many did not believe that the waters of the mighty Zambezi river, many miles away from their fields (other than zilili – riparian land – which were close to the river) and villages, would force them to move. The general thinking and belief was that the white man was merely tricking them to take over their land, especially their prized riparian land, which they had cherished for the many thousands of years they had inhabited the area.
No health centres or clinics were built in the resettlement areas besides the few that had existed before resettlement. Notwithstanding the provision of water and schools, resettlement continued to present problems to the people of the Gwembe Valley. By the late 1960s Scudder was able to identify over cultivation as a cause of soil degradation in many parts of the valley. (Scudder, T. 1971). During the dry season, Siameja and Lusitu resembled the Sahara desert.
The inevitable consequence of inadequate land has been the chronic food shortages and in some years famine conditions have prevailed. Soil nutrients have been depleted, resulting in poor yield returns even in a good rainfall season.
The situation became worse in the 1980s through the 1990s because of chronic droughts that ravaged the southern African region. The situation was worse in the valley, because the area is naturally semi-arid. These decades of droughts and food shortages revived people’s fond memories of the valley where they used to cultivate their riverine gardens and managed, even though with difficulty, to pull through stressful periods.
In recent years, the water problem has become even more serious. Most wells and boreholes sunk during resettlement programme have since dried up or broken down. The situation has been worsened by the fact that most, if not all, the rivers in the Gwembe Valley, which were perennial in the 1960s and the 1970s became sand beds during the droughts of the 1980s and 1990s. People living in those areas where water is a particularly serious problem, such as Lusitu, complained that they were “chased by water”, and now have no access to it; referring to the water in the lake. Lack of adequate water was a particularly significant problem in resettled areas. In many parts of the valley, especially in the Chipepo Chiefdom, Tonga women and children walk long distances to draw water. The situation is particularly bad during the dry season when the sinking of wells in river sand beds does not help the situation, as these wells quickly dry up. The evidence of climate change is there for all to see but some climate change deniers such as Donald Trump continues to deny its existence, characterised in America by unprecedented wild fires in California.
Many people interviewed, during fieldwork for the Kariba Dam Case study – including Chiefs Chipepo and Sinazongwe – complained that they had been reduced to wanderers and that they were no longer the proud men and women of the river (Basilwizi) that they used to be before the Kariba Dam Project.
At the time of resettlement, the Tonga were worried about how they were going to be able to carry all their belongings. It was a “rough time” and it was also mentioned that some elderly people “died of sorrow”.
Time and time again in the group discussions, it was pointed out that “we were treated like animals or things – rounded up and packed in lorries”. Some, at the time, heard others call out, “they are taking us to live in the bush like animals”. They had to be prepared for the lorries to come and take them away with their belongings.
Generally, little attention or care was paid to the Tonga; “the animals seemed to be more important”. This was in reference to “Operation Noah” mounted at the time to rescue animals and snakes from the flooding river. Clements (1959) noted that “scores of animals were saved – baboons, monkeys, civet cats, porcupines, snakes and a variety of bucks trapped on temporary islands by the rising waters of the new lake. It was the biggest animal rescue operation since Noah”. “Operation Noah” was highly publicised overseas, which completely overshadowed the resettlement of the Tonga. Even me as a little boy growing up in my beloved town of Mufulira heard about it in the 1960s but was unaware that it also involved the relocation of people.
One of the concerns the Tonga frequently expressed was grief due to the separation between the Tonga on both sides of the River. During the first years after resettlement, the Tongas were allowed to cross the lake and meet relatives and friends at the other side. However, the frequency of visits was no longer the same given the long distances involved, as some were located more than 100km from the lake.
Furthermore, when the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland broke up in 1963 and Zambia became independent in 1964, free movement ceased and border posts were established at Chirundu and Kariba. The separation from their friends and relatives was one of the most painful experiences connected with resettlement.
In Northern Rhodesia, the government agreed upon two types of monetary compensation packages. In October 1960, Sir Malcolm Barrow presented a cheque to the Local Authority in the sum of £200 000 at a symbolic ceremony held at Gwembe Boma, which was attended by all chiefs and councillors from the Valley. Individual compensations were in three forms of payment. The first was compensation for huts, which had to be abandoned, and amounted to £10 per hut. In the chiefdom of Mweemba, in the south-western end of present-day Sinazongwe district, people built both regular living huts and ngazi (huts on raised platforms), which were used, as granaries and as sleeping quarters. People received compensation for both types of huts. Some families in this chiefdom received as much as £170 as opposed to £100 in those areas of the Gwembe Valley where compensation was given for dwelling huts only. The second and third payments of £5 and £2.10 per head were compensation for loss of production due to the move. These payments were actually made per person for every man, woman, and child who appeared on the village census register that was compiled by the district officers shortly before the people were removed. The Gwembe Tonga called this “body money” (“mali ya mubili”).
The compensation payments were made from late 1958 through 1960 and the cost was met by the Federal Power Board and not by the Northern Rhodesia government. The government merely executed the distribution. In total, the Board paid the Northern Rhodesian Government £372 000 in individual compensation in addition to the £200 000 “tribal” compensation payment.
There was also indirect compensation called the “Fund for Gwembe Rehabilitation”, which amounted to £1 115 000. It is not very clear regarding how this fund was used; probably this was the money used to provide social amenities and other infrastructures. This compensation was often referred to as“Mali ya Kariba”.
Besides the conflicts it generated, compensation in relation to the losses incurred as a result of resettlement cannot be said to have been adequate. The compensation policy did not take into consideration the unforeseen losses that would be incurred by the relocated people, or the obvious losses such as the loss of the prized alluvial riverine gardens which offered the chance of cultivating dry-season crops, and also the loss of the opportunity to grow tobacco, which was their age-old commercial and cash crop.
Unforeseen losses, which the compensation package did not cover included livestock losses, which were very serious: somewhere in the range of £48 000 worth of cattle, goats and sheep were lost in accidents while in transit to the areas of resettlement. Some were lost through predators, poisonous plants, lack of suitable and palatable browse (vegetation, such as twigs and young shoots, eaten by animals), water shortages and epidemics such as the mysterious Lusitu deaths that characterised the areas.
Because of the ensuing famine the administration found it necessary to distribute large amounts of maize as famine relief: 38 000 bags of maize were distributed in the region between 1958 and 1960. This maize was not given free; instead the administration demanded that it be purchased using compensation money and yet the famine had been caused by the administration because before the dam people used to cultivate their riverine gardens (zilili) and managed, even though with difficulty, to pull through stressful periods.
To be continued next week
Mwomboshi Dam under construction.
Mwomboshi Dam in Chisamba