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« on: March 25 2008 »

By Bivan Saluseki, The Post Newspaper Zambia
Sunday September 30, 2007 [09:45]

THE Bottom Road from Maamba to Siampondo near Kalomo reveals places that are at the back of beyond.

Places such as Kafwambila, Siampondo, Muuka, Denganza, and Kanjezaso; near yet so far.

The heat - unbearable, the terrain unforgiving but inhabitable, anyway.

The goodness is the Tonga-speaking people of Gwembe Valley have fresh memories of the time Kariba Dam flooded their villages, living them with unfulfilled promises and assurances of a better life after the construction of the dam.

Several years down the lane, the people are as annoyed as before.
The D 499 road, which is also referred to as Bottom Road linking Sinazongwe to Siavonga via Gwembe District, is back-breaking.

Reaching Siampondo, which borders chiefs Simwatachela and Mweemba, is difficult.
It's a snail's pace made difficult by the terrain and the more than 50 washed away bridges and culverts.

How does one explain covering 40 kilometres in four hours?
Strange, but true.

The seasonal gushing of water have left behind craters large enough to swallow an overgrown elephant.

The last grader could not make its journey back around Nyanga area after it hit a landmine.

Little wonder the Tonga-speaking people of Gwembe Valley have no kind words for those who displaced them.
People like Loveness Siapubwe have no food for the hungry family.

Siapubwe prepares a wild plant called busika which she makes into a paste for a meal.
Apparently, the concoction which is not so appealing, gives a boost of energy and is also an aphrodisiac for energy sapping obligations.

Most children in the area do not go to school because they have to follow their parents who continually hunt for water.

Mweemba Area Development Association chairperson Edson Sikalongo has his own feelings about the life of the Tonga of the Gwembe Valley, several years after being displaced.

"The problems the people of Mweemba are facing are many and most of these have been caused by the establishment of the lake which started with a belief that people would benefit from it," he says. "One of the promises was that people would be given water either through piped system or canals.

The water was supposed to be used to irrigate the fields and also the animals. The problem that we face now is that animals are dying because of the drought. Animals have nowhere to drink water from."

Sikalongo says people who were used to all-year around agriculture along river Zambezi are now starving.

"The land they have been displaced to is so dry. Since government failed to meet its obligation, people rely on food relief which comes from WFP World Food Programme. This is not enough. It comes once in a while. It's a big problem," he says.
To Sikalongo, the infrastructure is demeaning.

When the people moved from the riverside of Zambezi, they were promised that schools would be built.

"This time we are talking about basic education, the minimum standard is Grade Nine. In chief Mweemba's area, we have only three schools that are running up to Grade Nine. We cannot count the schools in Maamba Township.

These were built with the influence in the mines. So we are talking of schools in villages. Government should have built the schools according to the promise. That is not the case," he complains.
The road network in the valley is poor too.

"We were promised to be given support through the Gwembe Tonga Valley Project. A lot of money was pumped in that project but then it benefited people who did not shift from the lake. Even if they shifted, they were moved to some point. A big chunk went to Mkandazovu where few people shifted," he says.

"No one is looking at us. More than 25,000 were displaced covering chiefdoms in three districts. There is no village that has enjoyed power as promised. The only electricity we see is the same that is everywhere, the Rural Electrification Programme which is everywhere."

Sikalongo has even got more complaints.

"Culture was destroyed during that period. People were taken to areas new to them meaning their beliefs and way of life were affected," he says.

Sikalongo thinks that due to the low literacy levels among the people at that time, it is possible they could have been paid very little money in order to resettle.
For now, Sikalongo wants the benefits to be visible.

"We are entitled to life and life can only be supported when we have these necessities that support life. If we are moved and dumped somewhere then no care is given then it means we are more vulnerable now than we were in our natural environment," he says.

"We need water. If government can build roads that can make us move. Social mobility is very bad now because of the poor road network. The road to Siameja is very bad.

We need the road network, support to agriculture and electricity itself. Mweemba Primary School has been there for a long time but its still running up to Grade Seven. Children are not even getting the right education. Maybe it's because of where we are."

For now the Tonga of Gwembe are used to seeing the overhead power lines taking electricity to urban centres and mining towns but nothing or very little for them.

"We feel very bad. During meetings, we say we don't see anything good from the lake. It's as good as not having the lake. We are better off without the lake. It's serving no purpose for us," said Sikalongo.

In an interview at his palace, chief Sinazongwe agrees with the complaints by the people.

"My friend this is a very serious issue which you are bringing now. It's a very serious issue. It's a crucial one. In any government, when you are resettling the people, there is need to look after them," he begins. "The valley people have three districts.

This issue of government not recognising people of Gwembe Valley is a serious issue. We were displaced but there is nobody looking after us. Electricity has not reached our people.

The villages here do not have electricity. We are over 47 years in resettlement but we cannot have electricity. We have talked but nobody is listening. Especially the ministry of energy and Zesco are not recognising us."
He has a solution to the current problems.

"Zesco should have been remitting a certain amount of money, a certain percentage. This money would have improved the standard of living of the people," he says.

Chief Sinazongwe says such money would improve the health sector, the Bottom Road, schools and irrigation.

"The same money, we could even build schools. The whole valley has got only two secondary schools, Chipepo and Maamba. Look at the population, which was displaced in the beginning.

It was only 55,000 which was both Zimbabwe and Zambia but look at the population which has increased. Under this district, we are over 100,000 people. That means the number of people has increased and the land is not enough," he says.

"We are squeezed in the hills. By remitting some money, that would have helped us.

Government does not listen. Companies are generating money from our displacement but they are not listening to us. We could not even be talking about the Bottom Road now. Zambezi River Authority should be looking at remitting some of the money.

Even the World Bank who funded the dam are just watching. Those in Zimbabwe are even worse. No water, no land even here we should have enough water. Government should accept our talks."

Chief Sinazongwe is annoyed that every time he wants to travel to Siavonga and other towns, he has to go through Choma and Mazabuka.

"We are finishing our fuels passing through other districts just to reach Siavonga. This is the nearest access. Schools don't have electricity, clinics no electricity. Gwembe Valley Development Company did a few projects but they phased out. If someone bought a double bed, how can he take it to a clinic in Sinafala in the hills with such a road?" he asks.

Chief Sinazongwe says as chiefs they formed a Trust to try and look at some of the problems in the valley.

They approached the government but the reception they received did not please them.
"The permanent secretary at energy could not even come out of the office when seven of us chiefs went to see him. We don't know why.

We wanted to discuss the issue of forming a trust since they were phased out in a funny way. We wanted government to fund the trust but they have refused to meet us," he says.

Currently in the valley, the Bottom Road is in dire need of rehabilitation.
The road continues up to Sinazongwe, passes through chief Sinazongwe via Sinazeze to Chipepo then Siavonga.

"This road has been talked of even during Dr Kaunda's time. It had been damaged during the Zimbabwe liberation war. Most of the bridges have been damaged and government has not attended to this one to date," said chief Sinazongwe.

There is also an issue of continuation of the drought along the valley.

"In April, some people were sent to come and see if people would harvest or not but those who were sent ended in the hills. It's surprising that they reported that we have got the food. There was no enough rain.

The rains went away in January till now. Most of our farmers did not harvest enough. Cotton did not do well because of lack of rainfall. We have low price of cotton," he says. "The ginners also do not come together. There were different prices from ginners.

Farmers are still confused. I doubt if there will be enough farmers to grow cotton. We have plenty of water, which needs to be harvested. We need irrigation schemes. The little land, which is there, needs to be irrigated so that we fight hunger and reduce poverty levels. When the lake recedes, people follow the lake to grow some crops. That is the only chance to have food."

In the valley, one learns one thing - problems are unending.
This time there is no grass for the animals.
The animals are thinning.

"If we had irrigation, the stocks of maize could be fed to the cattle. If you went round you would not find grass. Animals are just grazing from the leaves falling off trees. They are not enough because most of the trees have shed off the leaves to survive too," says chief Sinazongwe. "Even when they go to graze along the lake, they have liver flukes.

You cannot enjoy liver from the animals this time because of liver flukes, which go into intestines. You have to continue dosing.

If you don't, then you can enjoy the inside parts."
Chief Sinazongwe suggests that the government should be monitoring its expenditure.
He says any projects in the valley should be monitored.

"There were some projects funded by African Development Bank.


This is the fifth year, the Sinazongwe irrigation and other places, up to date.

This money is nowhere to be seen. The vehicles which were sent to monitor are now here for five years. The officers who were sent, we don't even know why they are being paid.

The holes for electricity are filled up now. The Ministry of Agriculture is not monitoring the projects," he says.

In Siameja area, there is a good clinic but no staff.

"We have staff in some clinics but the problem is that there is no medicine. Now we are going into the rainy season. There is a lot of malaria.

They must pump in enough medicine in the clinics. Now they don't spray. I think spraying went with Welensky. They know that this dam harbours a lot of mosquitoes. We need more mosquito nets," says chief Sinazongwe.

Daniel Siatwinda a head teacher at Siampondo Basic School is worried that most of the pupils are deserting school to join their parents who have shifted close to Zambezi River and Lake Kariba in search of food.

As things stand, most of the villages are deserted.

Tapson Sikatali, village secretary (Madyongo Village at the border between Sinazongwe and Kalomo) is angry that several years after independence, children in the area can only go up to grade four at a community school.

Some of the children have never seen a vehicle.
"The girls are married off at 12. They can't proceed into grade five at the nearest school which is four kilometres away.

"That same school is full. The pupils don't know about President Levy Mwanawasa and Chiluba. It's only us who have heard of Dr Kaunda. Some saw Dr Kaunda when he flew in a helicopter when he was President," says Sikatali.

Sikatali can only express what government had done for them in one word - nothing.
Claire Limbwambwa, in a report to World Commission on Dams, stated that the construction of the Kariba Dam in the late 1950s led to the flooding of an area measuring close to 4,000 square kilometres.

This resulted in the need to relocate approximately 50,000 people in the 1950s and disrupt their cultural systems and traditions.

According to Limbwambwa, some initiatives were undertaken using the resettlement fund created by the federal government to try and reduce the disruptions.

However, it became evident that the relocated people of Gwembe-Tonga and other affected people were not part of the planning and management of those initiatives and the people felt that the money was limited, late in coming and that there was no community input.

Based on that experience, there is an overwhelming sense that for new interventions people need to be involved in the design and planning.

Among the priorities, according to her, are road rehabilitation, upgrading of health facilities, construction of earth dams for livestock water supply for people away from the lake, provision of 30 boreholes for drinking water; and land conservation and reclamation in instances where people were sent to barren land.

The selected strategy is to provide physical, social and economic infrastructure and assist with capacity building of the affected people.

It is hoped that such a strategy would enable the affected people to pursue their economic activities with a little bit more hope than is currently the case.

Although the project has encountered problems such as the existence of landmines, budgetary constraints, continued distribution of food aid by some agencies and high expectations raised in the beneficiary communities, it is hoped that the project will be implemented successfully. Limbwambwa concluded that the final lesson was the need for capacity building, awareness and liaison.

The cost of the new programmes is estimated to be US$26 million and US$12 million has been raised to date. Many communities have very high expectations of the programme.

David Syantami Syankusule from Kaluli Development Foundation, Zambia said the construction of the Kariba Dam (1954-1959) by the Federal Government of Rhodesia and Nyasaland both negatively and positively affected the community in the Zambezi Valley.
"The negative impacts of the dam revolved around three main issues: resettlement, human and environmental health, and land use.

The resettlement process was especially problematic for the community. First of all, the communities thought that the resettlement period was too short to properly and respectfully transfer their goods and cultural traditions to their new homes. Second, violence was used by territorial authorities to force co-operation," he said.

"Third, compensation for resettling was insufficient. Regarding issues of human and environmental health, the proliferation of water related diseases such as malaria worried the communities. Also, the loss of diversity of food base was another concern.

The loss of fertile and manageable soil for farming due to the resettlement rounded off the list of negative impacts. Forty years later many communities are still awaiting the delivery of the promises made at the time and are still very concerned over the very limited scope of compensation."

Syankusule said the dam also had positive impacts on the communities, increased employment opportunities, improved standards of living, and the creation of more schools.

The resultant fishing industry has provided meaningful employment for most, and encouraged others to pursue other economic development opportunities such as opening shops.

The standard of living has also improved in terms of levels of sanitation and communication systems with the outside world.

Syankusule concluded that a major concern was the lack of negotiation on local sharing of revenues from power generation.

And that is where the problem starts.

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