11 February 2012

Zimbabwe: Gokwe 'Mermaids' Appeased

PUMPING of water from a dam in Gokwe started last week after traditional leaders performed rituals to appease "mermaids" believed to have been blocking the development project, a government official has said.

Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) Catchment Area Manager for Sanyati, Chengeto Gozo, said the authority started pumping water from the Sengwa 2/Gwehava Dam after traditional leaders performed rituals.

Gozo said pumps were switched on without any incident after the rituals.

"The ceremony was finalised on Wednesday and we switched on the pumps which we were failing to switch on for a long time," Gozo said. "This development has augmented water supply in Gokwe town, which was insufficient for quite some time.

Gozo said the only challenge which remained was intermittent power supply from the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa).

Water Resources Development and Management minister Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo recently stunned a Senate Committee on Gender and Development when he said mermaids were preventing government officials from installing water pumps at the dam.

Sipepa-Nkomo, who was presenting evidence on the water supply situation in Zimbabwe, said officers who were installing water pumps at the dam dumped the project vowing not to return for fear of the mermaids. He suggested brewing of traditional beer and conducting rituals to appease the spirits.

His sentiments were turned into an international joke, with several foreign publications picking the story last week.

On Friday, Sipepa-Nkomo stood by his words saying those who wanted to joke about the situation could do so, but his ministry was simply respecting the local people's beliefs. "I do not believe in mermaids, but the community that lives in the area does," he said.

"Our officers are Africans who also believe in these things. The pumps had already been installed in Gokwe, but we were failing to switch them on as they would be broken down the following morning under unclear circumstances and without any traces of vandals."

Next rituals set for Osborne Dam

Sipepa-Nkomo said rituals will also be conducted at Osborne Dam in Manicaland province where even white personnel hired to check the water for the government refused to continue with the work without giving explanations.

"The situation at Osborne is quite different because the water is hundreds of metres underground so people with oxygen masks went down to check what could be happening but came back saying they will never go back there," he said. "

That was when we hired white consultants thinking our people were vulnerable because they are Africans but without giving any explanations, the whites too vowed never to go back there."

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