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During my search for old books directly or indirectly related to Namwala, I discovered a picture of a steel ball with a diameter of almost 2m, which was being pulled through a forest [1]. Soon I found a second picture, showing three chained balls [2]. These were the steel balls which were used for clearing the banks of the Zambesi as a preparation for the fish grounds of the Kariba reservoir. This picture attracted my attention since there are three of these balls on the premises of the Choma Museum, 179 km from Namwala. We always make at stop there to have a snack, to visit the museum or to buy some souvenirs. By the way, this museum plans to extend its exhibition with a contribution on the Ila culture form the Namwala District.

Kariba 1

Kariba 2

The construction of the dam was a worldwide press item in the fifties because it was the biggest dam ever built at that time. But also the spectacular rescue of the wild animals which had to flee when the water rose became known worldwide under the name Operation Noah.

Kariba 3

The dramatic fate of the almost 60‘000 people known as the Gwembe Tonga, who had to leave their ancestral land on the banks of the Zambesi and had to move to the plateau, got less attention. Later some books were published on this theme [11], [12]. Also the famous ethnologist Elizabeth Colson published some studies about this forced relocation and its consequences [13]. In 2013 this tragedy was again discussed (Tonga). There are two similarities between the Gwembe Tonga and the Ilas from Namwala: the Zambezi valley and Namwala district were the areas evangilized by the Primitive Methodist Church and both had the remarkable custom of the removal of the front teeth as a beauty ideal.

Kariba 4

Now, 55 years after the initial start-up of the hydroelectric powerstation, the dam is again internationally in focus. It was reported that there is a 80m deep erosion hole at the foot of the dam, caused by the water flooding through the spillways which regulate the water level of the lake. The spillways also have to be repaired and there is also talk of cracks and rusting reinforcement.

Kariba 5

A dam break would be a disaster for the lives of 3,5 Million people and is also a danger for the Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique. This would involve even more people. Additionally,the power station covers 55% of the Zambian energy need and together with the power station on the Zimbabwean side 14% of the energy need of Southern Africa. An international consortium garantees the amount of 250 million dollars for the repair Reconstruction.

Because of the little rain this year the Kariba station produces substantially less power. In Zambia there is a run on photovoltaic equipment and generators are sold out at the moment. The copper mines were even asked to reduce their production. This means for the school in Namwala that they have to rely on the power backup system. Since this system is only designed for 4 hours light during evening prep, no light should be used during the day. This is quiet a challenge and this challenge will remain at least till the next rainy season.

– Johannes van der Weijden

[1] Colonial Report Northern Rhodesia 1958
[2] Kariba, The Struggle with the River God, Frank Clemens
[3], [4] Privat Johannes van der Weijden
[5], [7] The Shadow of the Dam, David Howarth
[6], [8] Operation Noah, Charles Lagus
[9] http://www.traveldealdirect.com/zimbabwe/
[10] https://www.newsday.co.zw/2014/03/20/kariba-dam-wall-faces-collapse/

[11] The Shadow of the Dam, David Howarth
[12] The Material Culture of the Peoples of the Gwembe Valley, Barrie Reynolds
[13] The Organization of the Gwembe Tonga, Elizabeth Colson

Dam construction
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbYO_Gm10ZY (45min Movie)

Operation Noah
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jfNOrqWwr8 (Part 1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lkXF4lAJtA (Part 2)



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