Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Nine Years in Journalism: How Bright Mukwasa Changed My Life

The author with Bright Mukwasa
at ZNBC Mass Media Complex
in 2014
By Paul Shalala
Sometimes, people's lives are changed by people who never know that the actions they are taking are historical.
Nine years ago, I received a phone call which changed my life forever.
Bright Mukwasa, a close friend of mine and classmate at Evelyn Hone College from 2005 to 2008 made a phone call in July 2008 with an offer for me to join a newly established newspaper called the New Vision.
At the time I was unemployed and living with my elder sister Nawa Shalala Mwale (now Dr) and her husband Humphrey Kasiya Mwale (I prefer calling him my big brother) in Minestone, Lusaka.
I accepted Bright's offer and joined the small newsroom which was located in the dusty Soweto area just near Uniturtle Industries and PG Glass.
In those humble days, we would sometimes walk to assignments and back to the newsroom to write stories and that wasn't a bother to me because where I grew up in Mumbwa I was used to walk many kilometers to play or watch inter school games in nearby villages.
The New Vision Newspaper gave me the big break into the media, I rose through the ranks to News Editor but before that, Bright had left for the Post Newspaper.
I later left for MUVI Televison where i spent two years.
In July 2012, Bright and I again met at ZNBC Mass Media Complex and we attended job interviews.
Three months later, the national broadcaster gave us jobs and today we proudly serve the nation together.
My story in the last nine years has been great: I have won two international media awards, five local media awards, I have travelled and covered news in Asia, Europe, North America and throughout Africa, oh plus meeting President Barack Obama hehehe.
This success is all because of BRIGHT MUKWASA the man I fondly call CARLOS CARDOSO.
Paul receives the second prize for the Africa Fact Checking
Media Award from Peter Cunliffe-Jones of Africa in
Nairobi, Kenya in November, 2014
Am writing a full article about people who have impacted my small journalism career but Bright stands out, he gave me a good start.
The article will have paragraphs featuring my mentors like Costa Mwansa, Mabvuto PhiriYvette Tembo ChandaKennedy BwalyaBrian MwaleBrenda Nglazi ZuluRay MwareyaCollins Mtika and Chansa Mayani who have had a positive impact on how I do my job.
I pray God should continues to bless Bright and make him a blessing to many more people.
Bembas say: "Uwakwensha ubushiku bamutasha elyo bwacha" (when a person drives you at night, you must appreciate them at day break).
Lesa amipale ba Cardoso, epashili bakuleka (God bless you Cardoso, continue with your good work)!!!!!!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Zambian Activists Launch ‘Team No Shame About HIV+’ Campaign

Some of the activists who are part of the campaign
  -Photos by Rise Up To HIV
By Paul Shalala

Over a dozen Zambian youths living with HIV and those who are passionate about fighting the spread of the virus have taken to social media to launch a campaign dubbed ‘Team No Shame About HIV+.’

The youths aim to raise awareness about their HIV status and inspire others to come out in the open and live positive lives.

In a country where being HIV positive is sometimes associated with bad behaviour, these activists want to inspire others to defy stigma and walk with their heads high.

The ‘No Shame About Being HIV+’ campaign is using personal stories from HIV activists wearing t-shirts with the message No Shame About HIV+.

The activists occasionally wear the t-shirts without feeling any shame and to them, this is one way of fighting the stigma attached to HIV.

Benjamin: The lead advocate

The activists promote the social media campaign using framed photos created by US-based activist Kevin Maloney.

“Kevin is the one who inspired us to come up with the T-shirt campaign just as they are doing in the USA. The other message we are trying to use as a campaign is the U=U meaning Undetectable = Untransmittable). This is aimed at encouraging HIV positive people to do their viral load tests and not just thinking about their CD4. We are doing both campaingns using social media in collaboration with Rise Up To HIV,” said Benjamin Sakala, the activist spearheading the campaign.

42 year old Benjamin has been HIV+ since 2007 and he occasionally posts messages of encouragement to people living with HIV on his Facebook page.

“I'm not a Hero, I just face reality head-on. The fact is HIV lives with me but no virus is in control of my life. The fight continues, Together We Can! I belong to ‘Team No Shame About Being HIV+,’ One story, One T-shirt at a time,” reads one of Benjamin’s recent status when he launched the campaign on Facebook.

Benjamin Sakala
Benjamin has an interesting story.

He started his advocacy a long time ago and on the way, dozens of other people living with HIV have joined him.

“My journey with HIV began in September 2007 to be precise after having unprotected sex with my partner. I later discovered she was living with HIV but deliberately decided to conceal that information. I’m not here to compete with anyone but to just add my voice and also encourage someone out there still failing to cope with the reality of living with HIV,” he says.

He was born on 7th July 1975. 

He was married and had two children but he legally divorced in 2015 after being separated from his wife and kids for over 8 years.

After being told of his HIV status in 2007, Benjamin became an advocate on social media.

He embarked on a special crusade using social media to share his story.

“As at today, i don't really know how stigma feels because I have never experienced it. My life with HIV is an open book which I freely share with thousands every year. My encouragement to those still failing to come out in the open due to shame, stigma, fear and denial is please find someone you can confide in. Besides, you are not the first or the last one.”

Precious: The activist who once opted for suicide

Another activist who is part of the ‘Team No Shame About HIV+’ campaign is 24 year old Precious Kaniki, the youngest among the activists.

She is a social worker by profession who spent the years 2013 and 2014 studying at the Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka while in denial of her HIV status.

She currently works for AIDS Healthcare Foundation as an HIV Medic and Youth Coordinator.

Precious got aware of the status at a tender age and at some point she was contemplating suicide.

Precious Kaniki
She shares her story below.

“Am a young lady living with HIV, I got to know I was positive in my 9th grade. I got sick from that time and I even got used to it but when I came to know my status I wanted to end my life.
I saw no future for my life, my dream of becoming an electro engineering was shattered, I thought living my life was useless. Life was a toy to me as all my dreams were seen as a total failure. Much worse I was in denial resulting in my personal, spiritual and academic life being impacted negatively,” said Precious.

She says for seven years, she refused to accept her HIV status.

When she passed her Grade eight examinations, she went to Grade ten where she was put in a Pure Sciences class.

She explains that while in that class, she saw no need for her to study hard as she expected herself to die before completing Grade 12.

“With that thinking, I stopped studying. The only time I was studying is when the teachers were teaching. I stopped taking my drugs, I only took them when I started having a cough or getting sick, at one point my CD4 count reached 19. I was the happiest girl because I thought only 18 counts to go and I will be no more.”

A turning point in Precious’ life came in 2014 when she lost too much weight and weighed a meagre 35 kilograms.

She says at that time, she did not pray to die but to recover to make her parents proud by passing her Social Work program she was studying.

On a lighter note, Precious is dating and she adds: "My man is actually HIV negative."

Alintula Nakawala
“Am happy to say I fully live my life now without being ashamed of being HIV positive, I know someone would want to know how I became positive. That doesn't matter, what matters is how I live my positive life moreover we won't go back 10 years ago and change the circumstance that led me to became positive. I always keep my promise to adhere to my drugs and put a smile on my face in any situation am in. Know your status, better knowing than not knowing,” said Precious.

Traditional practice gone wrong

One of the youngest members of the ‘Team No Shame About HIV+’ is 26 year old Alintula Nakawala who has been on HIV treatment for the past 14 years.

Alintula was born in a family of three but now she is the only one surviving having lost all her siblings and parents.

Her father past away in 1993 and her mother followed in 2006.

“I have lived a life of rejection, discrimination and stigma but I still manage to walk with my head high because am not ashamed of who I am. Living with HIV has been a challenge I have accepted because I can't change it but I can fight it,” said Alintula.

She says she got the HIV virus through a tradition practice performed by her aunt.

“I got infected by my aunt through tattooing. She was told to put her menstrual blood which she did on me without knowing that she was HIV positive. I was just a young girl by then, some where around the age of eightoro nine.”

Reverend Bweupe: A clergyman with a mission of saving others from HIV

Reverend Stuart Bweupe
Another activist in the campaign is Staurt Bweupe, a 49 year old Reverend in the Anglican Church.

Reverend Bweupe has a sad story which i broke on this blog two years ago.

His aim in coming out open about his status is to inspire other clergymen who are living with HIV to live positively.

"Am not happy to be HIV+, I have suffered but am alive by the Grace of God," reads a recent status on Reverend Bweupe's Facebook page.

His coming out open was not easy as he suffered stigma from his close friends, relatives and fellow church leaders.

At one point, he was blocked from conducting Sunday services in church as the church leadership debated what to do with him following his public disclosure.

But over the years, he has risen above negativity and now presides over his congregation in Kabwe without opposition.

Brenda: My husband hid his HIV status from me

Another activist with an unfortunate story is 43 year old Brenda Musenga.

Brenda Musenga
She has been living with HIV for over nine years now but she fully accepts her status and uses it to fight stigma.

“I’m stigma proof. I was a virgin the time i got married and we used to go for Voluntary Counselling and Testing with my husband every after three months and always the results were negative. But the time my hubby found out he was HIV positive, he stopped me from testing. Without me knowing, he was put on medication and when I came across the medicine one day, he told me it was for energy,” said Brenda in an interview.

Brenda says in June 2007, a few months after she saw her husband’s medication, she secretly went for VCT and her results came out positive.

She says life was not easy for her.

“In the first few months, it was not easy for me to disclose even to my family. I went through shame and today am a living testimony. I go out in the community and help children, women and youths living with the virus. I also started a support group and we basically focus on HIV issues.”

Brenda says her husband was living in denial and he stopped taking anti-retro viral drugs leading to complications.

Unfortunately, he died in March 2008, leaving her with her own three children and a fourth one he fathered outside of wedlock.

“I have passed through rejection which is still happening up to now. This has really made me strong and I continue to stand up and fight HIV,” said Brenda.

Through these touching stories on social media, these HIV activists hope to fight stigma and 'free' more people living with HIV from living in denial.

The 'Team No Shame About HIV+' campaign is also beefed up by other youths who do not live with the HIV virus.

These are Zambian youths who have a heart for an AIDS free society and go as far as they can to spread the news for positive living among those who deny their HIV status.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Zambezi: A Town Divided On Ethnic Lines

A ZNBC Cameraman Kashete Sinyangwe getting an aerial
 view of the Zambezi river in Zambezi town
By Paul Shalala in Zambezi

There are very few places in Zambia with such a spectacular view of the Zambezi river.

Zambezi town in the North Western province is a possible tourist destination due to its location.

The river passes through the town and divides it into two.

This division is also seen in terms of language and culture.

The west bank of the town is predominantly Luvale speaking while in the east bank, people speak Lunda.

The district has two rival chiefs who do not see eye to eye.

In the west resides Senior Chief Ndungu of the Luvales while on the east bank is Senior Chief Ishindi of the Lundas.

Over the years, there has been problems with the dominance of these tribes on either side of the Zambezi.

These divisions have also entered the church, an unlikely place where most people would think tribalism can not be practiced.

Fr Haaninga on the Chinyingi bridge
which connects Zambezi east to Zambezi west 
At the moment, the Catholic Church in the area is caught up in this dilemma.

For example Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which is located in the middle of town, holds separate services for Lundas and Luvales.

Father Noel Haaninga overseas Zambezi District and he explains the challenges he goes through in bringing the two tribes together.

"I superintend over 29 churches in Zambezi and there are certain areas where certain songs from this other side of the tribe are not allowed to be sung in church and vice versa. Even at the boma church were am based, you are able to see tension even on small issues like choosing church leaders, people would want to have their own to lead the church," said Father Haaninga who has been based at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Zambezi for the past six and half years.

Because of this tension in the church, Father Haaninga says he is forced to conduct two separate services for the two tribes as a way of accommodating them.

"We are now forced to conduct two separate services one for the Lundas and the following week one for the Luvales. Even when we do so, the day we conduct a Lunda mass, the Luvales will be few and they will not be active during mass. And when its the turn for the Luvale mass, the Lundas will be few and they wont be active. Now you wonder what the solution is for these people," revealed Father Haaninga.

In schools, there is still a division in the delivery of education services.

According to the school curriculum in Zambia, each district is supposed to adopt one local language for pupils from Grade one to four.

However, in Zambezi, pupils in the west bank are taught in Luvale, while in the east bank are taught in Lunda.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish in Zambezi

In the town area where there is a high concentration of both tribes, English is the language of instruction in primary schools.

"I was the first District Commissioner under the Patriotic Front Government in 2011. We had found that the schools in Zambezi were being taught in three languages: on the east bank it is Lunda and English. On the west bank its Luvale and English. Thats the same process we are following upto today because thats what government has set up as zonal language," said Lawrence Kayumba who is the District Commissioner in Zambezi.

A few years ago before this policy was introduced, local media reported that one female teacher was assaulted by Grade One pupils when she taught them in a rival language which they termed offensive.

This forced authorities in the town to close the school and classes only resumed after tensions where calmed following the zoning of the entire district into the three languages of instruction.

Rodgers Sakuwuka is a former Zambezi Member of Parliament and understands the challenges in this town.

He shades more light on the history of this tribal tension which dates back to Zambia's pre-independence era.

"There was a white District Commissioner during the British rule here in Zambezi and i think his name was Lawrence. That man used to play what we call divide and rule. Whenever Senior Chief Ishindi came to his office, he would find his portrait stuck on the wall. When Senior Chief Ndungu also goes to his office, Mr Lawrence would remove the portrait for Senior Chief Ishindi and place that for Senior Chief Ndungu. That is the genesis of divide and rule," said Mr Sakuwuka who also served as Zambia's first Tourism Minister and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

Mr Kayumba (in blue suit) and Mr Sakuwuka (right)
He however says there is need for both the Luvales and the Lundas to co-exist since they inhabit the same territory.

"Since you came to Zambezi, have you seen Lundas physically fighting the Luvales? Have you seen separate shops for Lundas and others for Luvales? All am saying is colleagues, lets avoid this issue of divide and rule. Lets avoid escalating the situation."

In terms of politics, Zambezi is divided into two separate constituencies and the boundary is the Zambezi river.

However,  the whole area is governed as one district.

Despite all this, Zambezi is a lively town.

People here go on with their normal lives despite the divide in their ethnicity.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

How Two Lepers Found Love And Raised A Family In A Hospital

Kenneth, his wife Grace and their grandchildren sitting
outside their one roomed house at the Leprosarium
By Paul Shalala in Zambezi

Some stories are very sad.

But sad as they maybe, they have a happy tinge in them.

The story of 86 year old Kenneth Samanenga and his wife Grace Kachana 76, is one of these.

Their story is an old one.

They met here at Chitokoloki leprosarium in Zambezi District in the North Western Province.

Both were patients as lepers and they found love at the hospital despite their affliction.

Kenneth came to the leprosarium as a single man in 1952.

He lived here until he was treated.

When he was discharged, Kenneth found that he had nowhere to go.

Family members he had left in the village had moved elsewhere and those that remained did not want to have anything to do with him.

Finding himself with no place to go, Samanenga returned to the leprosarium.

Like many lepers who are healed, the disease had left its mark: he lost his toes and fingers.

And meeting Grace was a blessing in disguise.

“We got married in 1978 and God has blessed us with children and grand children. We live here with all of them. This is our home,” said the smiling Kenneth.

His wife also has her version of the story.

“I was born in 1941 and I came for help here at the leprosarium in 1952. We got married and we now keep our children and their children here. I love my husband and we live happily,” said Grace.

The two have been married for the past 39 years.......years happily spent here at the leprosarium.

Two of their children and their five grand children also live here.

The leprosarium at Chitokoloki is a busy place.

In fact it is more than a leprosarium – it is a colony.

There are 150 houses specifically built for lepers.

This is perhaps the biggest and oldest leprosarium in the country.

The only other known leprosy centers in Zambia are at Liteta in Chibombo District and at Ibenga in Masaiti District.

The leprosarium at Chitokoloki is said to have been started by missionaries Suckling and Thomas Hansen around 1928.

Despite having no medical background Suckling and Thomas carried to the best of their abilities, providing drugs, food and clothing to their patients.

According to historical records, the history of this place is closely tied to Dr. James Worsfold who pioneered leprosy work in Chikoloki in the 1940’s.

Today, the leprosarium is more of a place of refuge for many who are now unable to return home.

Some of the oldest residents here do not even want to go back home.

They prefer to continue living here.

“I have spent many years here. They keep us well and I do not want to go back home. Am comfortable just here,” said one of the lepers in an interview.

And some people, who are attending to patients at the hospital, also occupy some of these houses meant for lepers.

Thankfully today, the number of leprosy patients has gone down drastically.

Only the likes of Kenneth and Grace who have only known this life here for the major part of their lives now remain.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first produced as a documentary and it was aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 08 June 2017 and it can be watched here.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Moses Luneta: Chavuma's Little Known Freedom Fighter

Mr Chilemu and Mr Lufupa at the gravesite of their comrade
By Paul Shalala in Chavuma

Perhaps the history books on the struggle for Freedom in Zambia are unfair or even selective because there is so much that happened which has not been documented.

Or, it may be that some of those who sat down to document this history were not privy to certain information or occurrences in some areas.

Of course, it is also true that not everything that happened......has to be inscribed into the annuals of these journals.

But there were instances, incidents or events which cannot be ignored like the one concerning Moses Luneta and his contribution to the Freedom Struggle.

Thankfully Luneta has not been forgotten in his home town of Chavuma in the North Western Province.

In Chavuma, Luneta has been immortalized.

The author seated at the spot where Luneta capsized in 1961
This isolated burial site now a National Monument lies opposite the District Commissioner's office and just about 300 metres from where he drowned and died in the Zambezi river.

But he does not lie here alone.

Seven police officers who came from Kamfinsa in Kitwe to arrest him, also lie buried here.

The story of Luneta is a sad tale of an ultimate sacrifice on his part as he paid with his life.

No wonder the name Luneta is now a folklore of the independence struggle here in Chavuma where it is revered.

Friends and relatives, visitors and inquisitive minds come here now and again to pay homage to this gallant son taken away so young.

85 year old Peter Chilemu was a childhood friend of Luneta.

And so was Ison Lufupa who is now 78 years old.

It was in these waters on that fateful day on August 29,  1961 when Luneta along with eight Northern Rhodesia Police officers drowned when their boat capsized.

For Chilemu, Luneta was a classmate.

Rodgers Sakuwuka (left) during the interview at his residence
"He was in Standard four and i was in Standard two at Chavuma Secondary. After that, he went to Chitokoloki where he got his Standard six. And then from there, he went to Livingstone where he joined the struggle for independence. He was born in 1930, he had a wife, he left three children," said Mr Chilemu.

Lufupa remembers Luneta differently as they held various positions in UNIP.

Luneta was said to have been instrumental in organizing civil disobedience in Chavuma which annoyed the British colonialists.

Days before he died, Luneta is said to have organised a strike which incensed the last British Governor of then Northern Rhodesia Sir Evelyn Hone who travelled all the way to Chavuma to quell the unrest.

According to historical records, the colonialists sent a platoon of Police officers from Kitwe to arrest the ring leaders in the border town.

The plaque at Kamfinsa 
"The British arrested Nelson Kapaku who was UNIP Constituency Chairman, arrested Benua Sandu who was our Constituency Treasurer then Brian Mulungisi our Branch Chairman for Chingi. Then they crossed the Zambezi river to Makingila where they picked Luneta and his brother July Masumba who was our Branch Chairman for Makinjila Branch. On their way back, they capsized. He died with seven Policemen including a white Inspector," said Mr Chilemu.

Rodgers Sakuwuka is another freedom fighter who recals the exploits of Luneta.

He served as Member of Parliament for Zambezi, Provincial Minister,  Zambia’s first Tourism Minister and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

For him,  Luneta’s sacrifice should be recognized countrywide.

"Can you imagine, he was caught, chained, put in a boat crossing the Zambezi and the boat capsized and thats how he died together with some Police officers. A man like that dying for the country but unfortunately, i don't here anybody including during Africa Freedom Day to talk about Luneta. Obviously he was a great young man who fought with his life for the nation," said Mr Sakuwuka.

A sign post for one of the schools named after
 Luneta in Chavuma
As a way of remembering the fallen freedom fighter, government maintains this memorial site in his honour.

Even major local government functions are held at this site.

"Luneta is being remembered in so many ways. During independence day, everytime we normally have the celebrations near the memorial site where our elder brother was put to rest," said Chavuma District Commissioner Benjamin Mufunga.

The eight Northern Rhodesia Police Officers who perished along with Luneta have also been honoured elsewhere.

Seven of the officers who drowned in the Zambezi river  were from the School of Public Order at Kamfinsa in Kitwe.

A plague has been erected in Kamfinsa in their memory and a clinic there named Chavuma, in their honour.

As for Luneta, much more has been done in his home town of Chavuma to keep his legacy alive.

Two schools, a primary and secondary school carry his name.

Today, Luneta maybe dead but his legacy lives on and generations to come will keep learning about this youth from a small town who died in the most cruel way for the sake of freedom.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video version of this story was aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 25 May 2017 and it can be watched here.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Kabompo House And Its Significance In Zambia's History

The Kabompo House -Pictures by Tigana Chileshe
By Paul Shalala in Kabompo
The independence of Zambia can not be complete without highlighting the role former President Kenneth Kaunda played. 
Dr. Kaunda's history is not only confined to his childhood town of Chinsali or Lusaka where he has spent most of his adult life.
Kabompo District in the North Western Province is dear to Zambia's founding President.
A visit to Kabompo is not complete without a visit to the Kabompo House where Dr. Kaunda was incarcerated for four months in 1961. 
In March of that year, Dr Kaunda was arrested at his Chilenje House in Lusaka and he was later transferred to Kabompo were he was held until July 1961.
Katiki Sakufola (left) after the interview
This blogger has travelled to Kabompo to track down people who saw Dr. Kaunda while he was in detention.
In a small village, five kilometers away from Kabompo town, i managed to locate Jonas Sakuwaha, the cook who used to prepare food for the then independence leader.
His story is interesting.                                    
"I lived on the Copperbelt with my uncle who was working in the mines in Kitwe. When i returned to Kabompo in 1961, i spoke a bit of Bemba and the British colonialists hired me because they could not understand local languages in Kabompo. I started cooking food for President Kaunda and he was a jovial man," said Mr Sakuwaha while seated on a stool.
The old man, who lives alone in his grass thatched house, added that the former President used to appreciate his food.
"After eating, he used to tell us many stories. He used to assure us that one day Zambia will be free and all of us will have a better life in future. He promised me a job but to date he has not returned, am still waiting," said Mr Sakuwaha.

Mr Sakuwaha also talked about Dr. Kaunda's choice of foods.

"In the morning, he used to drink tea with lemons. He used to refuse coffee or coffee."
Two kilometers away from Mr Sakuwaha's village is the residence of Katiki Sakufola who was a messenger just before Zambia's independence in 1964.
Jonas Sakuwaha (left), the cook who served Dr Kaunda in Kabompo
He and two other messengers guarded Dr Kaunda in his Kabompo House 24 hours a day because at that time, the colonialists had no Police officers in Kabompo.
"We used to take turns in guarding our future President. He used to read a lot and told us too many stories. Whenever we took him to the Kabompo river to work, he would take cover whenever he hears a plane flying past. He was scared of being bombed," said Mr Sakufola.
Mr. Sakufola said he was present when a huge snake is said to have passed in between Dr. Kaunda’s legs as he rested under a huge tree which still stands today near the Kabompo House.
"On a Sunday in March 1961, we did not take Mr Kaunda to the river. So he spent the day under the tree, reading his books. As he sat there, a huge snake came and it passed between his legs. I then whistled for my fellow messengers to come so we can kill it but it ran away," he said.

The tree under which Dr Kaunda used to seat
The National Heritage and Conservation Commission has taken care of the tree where President Kaunda used to rest from.

A Plaque has been placed there with an inscription explaining its significance. 

The Kabompo House caretaker Jean Chipita says youths of nowadays must be grateful to the forefathers who fought for our freedom.
"This house must inspire the young ones to work hard and cherish the freedom that they currently enjoy. Imagine the sacrifice President Kaunda made when he spent four months here just for the sake of our freedom. That was total sacrifice," said Mrs Chipita.
Kabompo may not feature much in the history books but it also has a mark on the freedom struggle.
Despite there being few visitors to this house on an annual basis, its significance is larger than the size of the structure.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This blogger also produced a TV report from this story and it was aired on TV1 on 25 May 2017 and the YouTube link of the video is here.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Source of Zambezi River Dries Up Due To Climate Change

This is the point where the Zambezi river starts from and
it is totally dry -Pictures by Paul Shalala
By Paul Shalala in Ikelengi
It has never happened before, at least in living memory of this life……as we know it.
In fact no one remembers such a thing ever happening.
And this has happened at a time when, water levels are supposed to be at their highest on account of the good rains experienced in the past six months.
But this is not so.
This blogger travelled over 500 kilometers from his mining town of Kitwe to the border town of Ikelengi in northern Zambia to verify reports that the source of the Zambia river had dried up.
What the blogger found on site was shocking.
Geologists believe that the Zambezi river starts from the Kalene Hills and it flows underground for some kilometers, only to appear in Mukangala area where the official source is.

A dry patch now meets the eye from the spot where the source is, where the Zambezi river used to ooze from.
In happier times, that was the first sighting of the river as it creeps from the undergrowth to form a rivulet.
And then it disappears and creeps back in visible patches here and there.
This dry patch is also the reason why this place is protected by the Zambian government.
First site of the Zambezi river, 300 meters from the source
It is also the reason why beautiful walk-ways were made for people to easily walk around and see the phenomenal spot.: the source of the Zambezi river
This same spot is also the reason why a nice visitor center was constructed by the Zambia government to provide information for tourists.
So what could have happened here?
Even Willy Chiwaya. the conservation assistant who has been taking care of the Zambezi source for the past 10 years has never seen anything like this before.
"I have been working here for 10 years and this is the first time ever seeing the source drying. We did not just have enough rains this year that is why it is dry," said Mr. Chiwaya.
And the traditionalists also have an explanation.
"The forefathers are annoyed that is why the source is dry. They are annoyed with the white people who have encroached into our land and chased us from the source. We are asking the government to allow us resume the musolu ceremony," said Senior Headman Mukangala, a local Lunda leader who lives less than two kilometers from the source of the Zambezi river.
The source of the Zambezi river is protected by the National Heritage and Conservation Commission.
The Visitor Information Center at the source of the Zambezi
The area, which is 36 hectares, has been declared a national forest in order to preserve the source.
However, this year has been full of surprises.
"The water table has really gone down. We have not had enough rains this year like we have had in the past. But there is still water here, though its 300 meters away from the actual source were we are standing," said Mr Chiwaya.
The Lunda speaking people are the owners of this land -  the source of the Zambezi river.
The Lundas called the river Yambezhi but the white man opted to call it Zambezi.
Actually, the Republic of Zambia derives its name from the Zambezi river.
In the years before the source of the river became a national heritage site, the Lundas considered the area as a shrine.
They used to come to this area to perform rituals.
And then came the white man.
"Where there is a monument, that was some kind of a hospital were the sick were brought for healing. What used to happen is that the ancestors would come here, get few leaves and trees to mix together and give the herbs to the people who were at the camp and they would get healed," revealed Mr Chiwaya.

He further explained about the restrictions which were followed religiously at the shrine.

"There are some restrictions which are currently not being followed thats why this place is no longer a shrine. Only circumcised men where allowed here and women who did not have sex during the day time were also allowed to come." 
Senior Headman Mukangala lives a few kilometers away from the source of the Zambezi.
During the colonial error, he used to be Chief Kabanda but in 1947, he was de-gazette on account of not having enough people in his chiefdom.
Senior Headman Mukangala
The British colonial government claimed his villages were scattered and he would not manage to hold his chiefdom together.
Today Senior Headman Mukangala feels the drying up of the source of the Zambezi river is a curse.
"The decision to stop us from celebrating the Musolu traditional ceremony at the source of the Zambezi is what is causing problems and the drying up of the source. The spirits are annoyed," said the traditional leader in an interview.
Before the whites started visiting this area in the 1920s, the villagers used to perform a ceremony called Musolu.
In this ritual, they prayed asking the gods for good rains.
But now they no longer perform it.
"During the ceremony, we used to start by praying to God for good rains. All Headmen under my leadership would gather at the source of the Zambezi. All people would be happy because they would be talking to God directly," he said.
The Musolu ceremony, like many other cultural activities of this nature, is performed once a year.
Senior Headman Mukangala now recalls how it was done.
Throwing some seeds on the ground, Senior Headman says: "Once we paint our faces with white powder, we would then ask God that whatever we have planted, let it germinate so that next year we can have enough food for your people."
But all is not so dry at the source of the Zambezi.
Three hundred meters away from the actual source, there is some activity.
A local tourist at the Chavuma Falls
A small brook of water coming from an underground fountain, is the first sign that the Zambezi river still runs here.
And it is as they say that big things, sometimes start very small.
These are the humble beginnings of the Zambezi  before it starts its long, winding journey to the Indian ocean.
The Zambezi river grows in size and flows west wards within Ikelengi District before it crosses into Angola.
While in Angola, the Zambezi,  grows in size and stature as more and more rivers and streams pour into it.
And for flowing for 240 kilometers, the Zambezi river gets bigger and bigger before entering Zambia.
A few meters after entering Zambia, the Zambezi passes a place called Lingelengenda in Chavuma District.
Here there are rapids and natural swimming pools popular to young people.
Some boys were spotted by this blogger, swimming at the rapids without the fear of being snatched by crocodiles.
The Zambezi river as it enters Zambia from Angola
From here, the Zambezi flows swiftly and southwards towards Chavuma town and forms another set of rapids which plunge into Chavuma falls.
The Zambezi then continues on its southern journey to the Western Province, down to Mozambique and finally into the Indian Ocean.
All along its 3, 540 kilometer stretch, the Zambezi is a lifeline for millions of people in Southern Africa.
But it is the new developments at the source of the Zambezi that are worrisome.
Does this drying have any effect on this mighty river?
"I must believe that we haven't just had enough rains, because if you can see the status of the road we used when coming here, it is still very good, but usually around this time, there is a lot of trouble getting here due to too much water.  But its still okay because there are no enough rains," said Mr Chiwaya.
Despite this climatic phenomenon, the Zambezi is giver of all things.
The river is a source of transport, food and employment in Zambia, Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique.
It is also a major source of electricity for these countries due to its many water-falls and dams which produce hydro power for domestic and industrial use.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired on TV1's Newsline program on 19 May 2017 and the video can be watched here.