By Marko Phiri
PLUMTREE, Zimbabwe— For as long as anyone can remember, the little towns of Plumtree and Ramokgwebana have shared the waters of the Ramokgwebana River at the border of Zimbabwe and Botswana in southern Africa. But because of reduced rainfall the river has been shrinking and the people of the neighboring towns have begun fighting over the water.
A river that was once 100 yards wide has shrunk by half. As a result, stretches of what used to be river bottom on both sides of the river have become sandy beaches. Old demarcation lines have become blurred. Shouting matches and fistfights have broken out. So far no deaths or serious injuries have been reported. But people on both sides are angry and worried.
“Going to the river has become a nightmare,” said Jabulani Tshuma, who farms a small plot on the Zimbabwe side and tends a few cows that provide milk and meat for his family. Mr. Tshuma, 50, said he has begun considering going to the river at night to get his water “to avoid unnecessary quarrels.”
The conflict here along the Ramokgwebana, far from the capitals and larger cities of Zimbabwe and Botswana, provides a tight focus on a problem that has arisen as far back as people have shared water. In times of abundance, there is nothing to argue about. But now, with climate change diminishing rainfall and river flows around the world, new tensions are developing across national borders and within countries.
The United Nations says that at least 250 rivers that serve as national boundaries, like the Ramokgwebana between Zimbabwe and Botswana, are of particular concern. In the early 1990s, people like Kofi A. Annan, then the secretary general of the United Nations, began warning that water rather than oil would become the fulcrum for wars.
While water is often said to have been a factor in the civil war in Sudan, there has yet to be a massing of armies specifically over water. United Nations officials now are emphasizing that the vast majority of conflicts over water have been resolved through negotiations. That, of course, has been true of every category of conflict. Wars, in all cases, have been the exception. Following that line of thought, many water experts still do not rule out a war at some point over water as world population grows and water supplies dwindle.
Here along the Ramokgwebana, where the river bottom beaches have become pocked with tiny ponds hand-dug with shovels, war does not seem so far-fetched. Often people who have done none of the work to create the ponds take water from the ponds. Of course, those who made the ponds object. Access points along the river that were once recognized as the preserve of certain individuals and families are no longer regarded by everyone as reserved areas. Some families have begun taking turns at guarding their water holes. Threats have been flying and some people say they are afraid to go near the river.
People on both sides of the Ramokgwebana share family ties and common languages, SeTswana and Kalanga. But Thabiswa Ntini, who is 36 years old, and lives in Tshitshi, one of the villages that come under the administration of Plumtree town, said, the family ties have “not helped quell the water disputes.” Community spirit has vanished, he said, as disputes over scarce water have risen even among people in the same village.
Plumtree is regarded as a gateway to Botswana. Its downtown consists of a single main street with a few hardware shops and grocery stores, some with rusty corrugated iron roofs, built before the country’s independence from Britain in 1980. Plumtree has a population of about 5,000, and many residents have left town to look for work in Botswana and South Africa, the next country south of Zimbabwe.
In the dusty rural village of Tshitshi, 36 miles or 60 kilometers south of Plumtree, mud huts with thatched roofs stand next to newer small homes of brick with corrugated iron roofs.
It is a frontline village where, with increasing wariness, people share the border waters with the people of Botswana. Villagers say those seeking to fill buckets with water have been yelled at and chased away from places that the Botswana people have recently claimed as their water spots.
The people in Plumtree irritate their neighbors across the river by letting their cows and goats drink from ponds claimed by the people in Botswana. In some cases, Mr. Ntini says, people in Plumtree are suffering the indignity of taking their household water from ponds where cows and goats are drinking.
No help has been forthcoming for Plumtree and Ramokgwebana from government officials or private aid agencies. From Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, Sam Sipepa Nkomo, the water resources minister, said by telephone that he had no information on the troubles in rural Plumtree. He said he would “look into the water problems” that I described for him.
Many people in Plumtree say they have no idea what to do about the problem and can only hope that the government or private aid agencies will do something to help them and their neighbors across the river. “We wait for the day when some benevolent soul comes to drill wells in the village,” Mr. Ntini said, “so we do not have to throw punches in order to have something to drink.” #
Kuqhamuka ukungezwani phakathi komakhelwane ngodaba lwamanzi
Udaba lulotshwe ngu Marko Phiri
PLUMTREE, Zimbabwe - Udubolwamanzi soluhlasele kakhulu izakhamizi zesigaba semaphandleni asePlumtree eziphila duzane lomngcele weleBotswana lapho okugeleza khona umfula uKwebana.
Izakhamizi zakoTshitshi zona kusukela endulo ebizanatha kumfula uKwebana zithi ukungani kwezulu eneleyo sokwenze isigaba lesi soma.
Kodwa izakhamizi zengeza zisithi ubunzima lobu sobengezwe ngobunye bokulwela amanzi phakathi kwezakhamizi zalindawo kanye lomakhelwane abakungcele weBotswana zona ezesethesa izakhamizi zakoTshitshi kanye leminye imizi ekumgcele lo ukunatha kundawo zikaKwebana ezithi ngezezizalwa zeBotswana.
Esinye isakhamuzi Umnunzana Thabiswa Ntini uthi kusukela kuqala ukoma kwalumfula wona osunciphe okwesabekayo kwezinye indawo sokubelokungazwani lezinye izakhamizi ezivela kucele likaKwebana eliseBotswana.
UNtini uthi sokunzima ukuthola amanzi eneleyo ngenxa yokulwisana lokhu okukhona ngoba bengatholi usizo oluvela kuhulumende weZimbabwe mayelana ngokuthola amanzi eneleyo njalo ahlanzekileyo.
Izifuyo ezifana lembuzi, amadonki kanye lenkomo lazo zihlaselwe yikusilela kwamanzi lokhu izakhamizi ezikumngcele weBotswana zisetheswa umlanadu wokwala ukuthi izifuyo lezi ezivelekucele leZimbabwe zinathe.
UNtini uthi lokhu sokubangele ukuthi inyamazana zinathe ndawonye labantu endaweni ezifana lemothombo eseduzane lemizi khona osokubeke izakhamizi engozini yokuthola imikhuhlena evela emanzini.
Ukungezwani okutholakala kundawo le ekumgcele weZimbabwe leBotswana kawuqali lamhlanje emhlabeni jikelele ngoba umhlaba wonke ubhekane lenkinga yonale yezakhamizi ezingazwaniyo ngenxa yamanzi.
Inhlanganiso yomanyano wamazwe omhlaba eye United Nations ibika ukuthi kulemfula edlula amakhulu amabili lamatshumi amahlanu eyimngcele yamazwe khona okulathe ukungezwani ikakhulu kuzakhamizi ezakhe duzane lemifula le kodwa zona izakhamizi lezi zihlala emazweni angomakhelwane.
Esinye isakhamuzi sesigaba sakoTshitshi laso esinatha kuKwebana Umnunzana Jabulani Tshuma uthi usehleli esesaba ukuya emfuleni lo ngoba ekewethuselwa yizakhamizi ezivela kumngcele kaKwebana ngaseBotswana esetheswa umlandu wokunatha endaweni okuthiwa kasiyoyakhe.
Lokhu kwenzakala loba kusukela ekadeni abantu bendawo lezi zombili bebesaziwa belobuhlobo nanku bakhuluma indimi ezifanayo.
Kodwa inhlanganiso yeUnited Nations isike yatsho ukuthi udaba lolu lwamanzi lungekela ukulungiswa emhlabeni wonke, kulakho ukuqhamuka impi.
Loba impi le ikhanya nje ukuthi isakhatshana emazweni ahlolisiswa yinhlanganiso le, okwenzakala kuzakhamizi ezifana lalezi ezihlala kumngcele yombili kaKwebana kanye lakwezinye indawo emhlabeni wonke jikelele, sokutshengise ukuthi le yindaba okumele ilungisiswe ngokuphangisa uma impi lezi okukhulunywa ngazo zizavikelwa.
Izakhamizi zesigaba sakoTshitshi zibika okunye okwengeze ubunzima bodaba lwamanzi yikuthi kulokhu kungela zibhorane ezinengi kulesisigaba izakhamizi sokumele zikambe ummango umude zisiya lapho okulezibhorane, zona zilakho ukuqonda kuKwebana oseduze kodwa lapho ezifika zibhekane lohlupho lokwisana lezakhamizi zeleBotswana ezithi ezinye izigaba zomfula lo akumelanga zisetshenziswe yizizalwa zeZimbabwe.
UNtini uthi izakhamizi ziqhubeka zikhulekela ukuthi zithole umuntu wenkosi ozagebhela izakhamizi izibhorane ukuze udubo lolu lwamanzi lulungisiswe.
Umphathintamabo obona ngezamanzi kweleZimbabwe Umnunzana Sam Sipepa Nkomo lapho etshelwa nga loludaba oluhluphayo kumngcele lo uthembise ukuthi uzalukhangelisisa ukuze uhulumende wakhe abone ukuthi angaphathisa njani. #