THE IM­PACT OF LARGE DAMS ON RE­SET­TLE­MENT OF DIS­PLACED PEO­PLE

Daily Nation Newspaper - - Feature - By By Ronald Ronald Lwamba

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

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