Sumbawanga and Dar es Salaam — A pregnant woman and her unborn baby died in Nkasi District, Rukwa Region recently after the RupitaTourists lodge guards acting on their employer's denied them emergency landing in the lodge area along Lake Tanganyika shores.
Since the woman died before reaching the hospital, the family said it was not possible to establish the cause of her death. It is, however, believed that she must have developed complications because she could not reach hospital on time after being denied access to the lodge's shores which led to the death of the mother and child.
Narrating their ordeal, a family (name withheld) told our reporter in Rukwa that in that incident in which they were transporting pregnant woman on a boat, suddenly water tides on the lake became rough and forced them to seek safety. "We were forced to look for a safe landing since our boat was hit by heavy tides but the hotel guards ordered us not to anchor on the shores of Lake Rupita, even after pleading to them that we had an expectant woman in critical condition on board," said the family member who is a fisherman.
Two tourist lodges owned by American investors, which are located along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Nkasi district, Rukwa Region, are alleged to be mistreating local residents who are living in the surrounding villages and have "no respect for human rights. "We do not see the benefits of having an investor in the middle of our communities who does not have respect for human rights," said the aggrieved resident in the family of the woman who died with her baby.
Rukwa Regional Commissioner, Ms Stella Manyanya, when reached for comment said that it was unfortunate that such incident had occurred in the region. But she said that when she visited the district she had extensively consulted with local leaders and residents of the area to earmark the area where their boats could land in case of emergency, rather than trespassing the lodges' sites.
She added that efforts in collaboration with the district authorities were underway to earmark an area in Kirando so that the fishermen could use the area as a landing spot in case of emergency. "There often are risks of bandits crossing in the region from neighbouring countries, to raid business places," she said.
Sometimes the hotel personnel cannot be blamed when they enforce strict security measures since it was a fundamental concern for the existence of their businesses. "It is about the protection of their clients, failure to ensure their security could make the investor run out of business," she stressed.
The RC called upon the residents of Rukwa to extend full support to the regional administration, since people living in the area have access to a lot of information which can be useful to curb banditry and other crimes. Narrating their ordeal, our sources in the district further claimed that the owners of the tourist lodges have instructed their security guards to chase away residents who visit the shores using ferocious dogs.
Efforts to reach the hotels manager proved futile. This reporter has several times been restricted to enter the lodge's premises and the manager who is an Indian national, Mr Seif Seif, said he cannot talk to anyone because he is not the spokesperson. Meanwhile, the Councillor for Kipili Ward, Mr Basilio Mbwilo, admitted that the residents of the area, majority who are fishermen, have been complaining of humiliation by the investor's employees, including confiscating their boats once they anchor at the shores of the lake near the lodges including their fishing gear.
"It is true that the fishermen are subjected to humiliation including acts of the hotel staff under the manager's instruction, using dogs to harass them, he affirmed. The 'Sunday News' has also established that the owner of the hotel who has been identified only by one name as Tom, is currently living in the US. Tom is the owner of the Rupita Island lodge in Nkasi district.
Reliable information indicates that a former California Governor, Anorld Alosi Shwarzenegger who was once was film actor and a producer, is one of the owners of the Rupita tourist facility. The other lodge is Lake Shower Camp located at Kipili village along the Lake Tanganyika shores in Nkasi district. It is owned by Chris who came from South Africa few years ago and later became a manager at Rupita lodge.
These lodges are surrounded by some islands including Mandakerenge, Mandauruira, Mvuna and Kalungu whose residents are engaged in fishing activities who continue using extremely crude fishing. Despite the fishermen being surrounded by the modern tourist hotels their standard of living have continued to deteriorate, while they continue to miss important opportunities including lack of schools, dispensaries and clean and safe water.
Rupita Island Lodge is reported to have prohibited any resident in the area, including fishermen, to enter the restricted area on reasons best known by the owner of the lodges. Several fishermen from Mvuna, Mandakerenge and Mandauruira islands who asked for anonymity, complained that they are not allowed to land by the lodges' shores even during emergency conditions.
"We are not allowed to land on the shores even if the water tides in the lake are rough and life threatening. We are also restricted to carry any fishing activities near the shores. "In case of such dangerous situations any act of approaching the hotel shores is met with cruel measures of sending dogs to bite us," the local resident lamented.
Describing the lodges, sources further said that these were seasonal lodges which receive between 20 to 150 tourists who are from the US. The Lodge also owns a boat which is used specifically to ferry tourists from the airstrip to the lodges. The boat can transport 12 passengers at a time.
A resident of the area said that it is rare to see nationals staying in these lodges due to prohibitive rates charged. Rupita Lodge charges between 1.8m/- and 2.8m/-(in local currency) a night. For any guest to be able to get accommodation in the lodge the booking has to be done in Arusha. This reporter who attempted to enter Rupita island lodge recently was not allowed to cross the gate. Mr Seif even asked the reporter to have a visa if he wanted to enter the area.