Flood-prone villagers refuse to relocate

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-Thousands of villagers in the flood-prone Kabbe South Constituency in the Zambezi Region have refused to move to higher ground saying they will miss out on seasonal delicacies that come with fresh-water fishing.

The Zambezi Regional Governor, Lawrence Sampofu, last month warned that the annual flooding of the Zambezi River could come and hence he urged villagers in Kabbe South Constituency to move to higher ground.

Kabbe South Constituency Councillor, John Lokando, yesterday said when they consulted with villagers to relocate to safer ground, it turned out that many did not want to move for various reasons such as their livelihood.

“It’s a bit tricky. If you go on the ground, parents feel it’s not easy to just pack up and leave. We believe in consultation. So, we need to mobilise and sensitise them,” he said.

Additionally, he said villagers are hard to convince because during floods there is a lot of food supplies such fish, vegetables including water lilies, (which is a staple food in Zambezi) and fruits such as mangoes and guavas.

“In terms of general survival, most parents are self-employed. There was a fish ban from 30 November last year and it will only be lifted from 1 March. This will make them concentrate on fishing because they survive on these resources. So it’s very difficult for us to convince them to move to upper land. These are critical issues. They are still observing if they will move or not,” Likando maintained.

According to him, some villagers are reluctant to move because of lack of grazing land.
He said at times people on higher ground do not allow others to graze their cattle on higher unflooded land saying they have too many cattle.

Hence, he encouraged traditional authorities to talk to their people and help others, saying when flood waters subside people on higher ground also go to lower land to graze their cattle on the floodplains and they should reciprocate the gesture.

He also expressed concern that the relocation process is sometimes cumbersome, adding that such a move leads to villagers refusing to leave their homes.

According to him, sometimes government says relocation camps are ready, but in actual fact things are not technically good on the ground.

He noted there is also little provision of food rations and also the movement of one school to another takes time, whereby desks and chairs also break.

He said he accompanied the governor last week to Zambia to negotiate if they could allow Namibians living along the river to use routes in Zambia as has been done in the past, as most of the roads on the Namibian side will be flooded.

“Most of the schools along the Zambezi and Chobe rivers have to use routes via Botswana and Zambia, that’s why we went there to negotiate for the usage of their routes. Inland is no longer reachable. The learners and teachers are crossing with banana boats and others use their dugout canoes, which is very dangerous. The banana boats are also used by villagers,” he noted.

The affected areas in the epicentre of the flood zone include villages such as Schuckmannsburg, Namiyundu, Nankuntwe, Muzii, Mpukano, Masiliki, Ivilivinzi, Lisikili, Imukusi and Nfoma.

He said Zambia normally allows Namibia use its docking point at Mwandi for easy transportation of goods and people during heavy floods.

When asked why the schools and learners have not yet been relocated, he said parents or villagers are reluctant to move to higher ground. However, he stressed that villagers have moved most of their livestock to higher ground.

Likando revealed that there has been no loss of human life so far, except an incident that was recorded in which a crocodile attacked a farmer, who was crossing the river to move cattle to higher ground.

The man, who apparently managed to escape from the jaws of the crocodile but sustained serious injuries to his thigh, is currently receiving treatment at Katima Mulilo state hospital. The farmer, whose name could not be established by the time of going to press, is from the Lusese area.

Likando said another incident involves two huts that were destroyed by lightning.
He said there was only loss of property as the huts were reduced to ashes at Lusese and Sivulamunda.