Angry river god blamed for parched Kariba

2015-10-28 20:35


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Harare - Could an angry river god be to blame for Lake Kariba's desperately low water levels?

Traditional chiefs on both sides of the lake believe this might just be the case. They've reportedly turned to rain-making ceremonies to appease the god, known locally as Nyaminyami.

But not everyone is impressed.

"Laugh or cry?" asked @ZimMediaReview in a tweet next to a photo of a banner headline on Wednesday for the official Herald newspaper which reads: "Rain-making ceremonies for Kariba."

Zimbabwean law expert and academic Alex Magaisa tweeted: "Desperate measures... apparently the river gods need appeasement".

The Herald said that some chiefs believed the low water levels, which threaten to paralyse electricity generation in Zimbabwe, "could be as a result of failure to conduct traditional rites". 

"Water levels have not gone down to such levels since the 1995-6 season and there is concern that the river god Nyaminyami could be in need of appeasement," the report added.

Head of a fish, body of a snake

According to folklore, Nyaminyami has the head of a fish and the body of a snake and is almost always in a bad mood because he was separated from his wife at the time Kariba Dam was constructed.

Carvings of the river god are often sold to tourists in Kariba.

Energy Minister Samuel Undenge warned this week that Zimbabwe would have to "bite the bullet" and hike energy tariffs, as power shortages worsen as a consequence of Kariba's dropping volumes.

"We will have to sacrifice if our load-shedding hours are to be reduced," he was quoted as saying. He has said that power generation could be further cut by 50% in January as the water sinks even lower.

The authorities have admitted that no real work has been done on improving Zimbabwe's electricity generation capacity since the 1980s.

Well-known Zimbabwean news executive Vincent Kahiya tweeted Wednesday: "When rain-making ceremonies replace strategic planning."

Rain-making tax

Ceremonies have been held by chiefs on the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides and another is scheduled for the end of the month. 

Rain-making ceremonies are also being held in other parts of the country, as they have been in previous years.

The Bulawayo-based Sunday News reported that some villagers in the southern Masvingo area were unhappy because they'd been asked to pay a $2 (R27) "rain-making tax" to help fund the ceremonies.

Some say they've been threatened with expulsion from their homes if they don't pay up, the paper reported.

Blogger @CynicHarare tweeted: "Silly. Rain-making ceremonies and n'angas (spirit mediums) won't solve our nation's problems. All night prayers and prophets will."

His comment was a reference to incredibly-powerful - and rich - self-styled prophets who are often consulted by Zimbabwe's politicians.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  souther africa

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