Thrills and spills at Mazowe Dam

RARE SIGHT . . . The Mazowe Dam spills for the first time in 17 years

RARE SIGHT . . . The Mazowe Dam spills for the first time in 17 years

Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
Finally, the mysteries and myths have been laid to rest. Mazowe Dam is at last spilling! This, years after the dam was reduced to a thin weir.

To many what had happened was irreversible and hopes of seeing its luminous blue surface shimmering with sunray reflections as they drove past the valley were gone.

Narrations of how the water sounds when spilling from the dam were starting to sound like a legend told by an intoxicated lunatic – they were virtually hard to believe.

Over the years, no amount of rainfall could fill the dam.

Despite 2016-2017 season’s incessant downpours, a testament to the Heavens` generosity, locals were sparing their optimism for foreseeable realities.

Mazowe Dam filling to capacity could no longer be counted among those realities.

Having worked at the dam as a gauge attendant since 1994, Robert Choze was convinced that he was going to be out of a job unless a miracle happened.

The dam`s water level had reached an all-time low since he joined the trade.

“I remember testing the water levels last year and the meter read 4 percent. I thought that was the end. I could not see how the water levels were going to rise again,” Choze said.

Dry as they were, the past two rain seasons were not inspiring, and Choze was justified to lose all hope.

“What had been left was a small patch of water, even the canoe clubs had stopped coming here.

“We were using the little we had to water the citrus fields. I was convinced that we were heading for disaster,” he said.

When the rainy season commenced, Choze knew that the water level was going to rise but his projections were exceeded.

However, what was supposed to be a regular Friday became a memorable day as the dam finally spilled.

The day, March 24, 2017, became a memorable day for Choze as a spectacle he last saw close to two decades ago happened.

“I do shifts with another gauge attendant and I was coming from an off-day when I saw that the dam`s levels were very high,” he said.

Choze said he was elated to find that the dam was spilling and his reaction sums it all up.

“It was around 11am when the dam began spilling. I rushed to call my bosses at the Citrus so they could witness the dam spilling,” he said.

Since the dam spilled, motorists are now stopping to catch a glimpse of the water body – a sight many last saw before the turn of the millennium.

It appears the dam`s steward is not the only one relieved by the dam`s spilling.

The surrounding communities are in equal jubilation.

Clever Kazai (40) has spent much of his life near Mazowe Dam.

“I grew up around this area and I also work here. It is nice to see the dam filling up.

We were starting to think that we would never see it spill in our lifetime,” he said.

He has worked at the kiosk next to Mazowe Dam spillway all his life.

“In the 1990s this place used to get a lot of customers who used to buy fruits from the kiosk. But since the dam levels started lowering the numbers were falling because that attractive element was missing,” he said.

The traffic in their age old kiosk has increased over the past week as people have started stopping over.

Kazai said before 2001, when they last had a spill, the dam used to fill to capacity almost every season.

“Before the dry spell, life used to be easier for us, the water that we use for our daily activities is drawn from the dam,” he said.

The dry parts of the dam were now serving unusual purposes.

“Locals were now hunting for mice on the dry portions of the dam, starting fires and polluting the little water we had remaining,” Kazai said.

He said the dam’s rejuvenation might reintroduce him to some of his favourite activities on the dam.

“There used to be large boats which provided a good weekend getaway. They had to be stopped as the water levels fell. Engineers from the Mazowe Citrus said the water could no longer sustain their pressure and this could potentially damage the dam wall.”

But what could be the reason behind the turn of fortunes for people surrounding the dam?

Locals are not ruling out intervention of supernatural elements in the rains that have fallen Zimbabwe this season.

“These rains are not normal, people in cities think that the rains just happened. We prayed hard for this water for many nights,” 56-year-old Madzimai Tita Kasenya, who lives in a compound close to the dam, said.

She is a member of the Johanne Masowe YeChishanu, founded by the late Madzibaba Mwicho.

Madzimai Kasenya believes their prayers played a big part in this season`s good rains.

“We were now walking about two kilometres to get drinking water. Things were getting out of hand,” she said.

Their leader, before his death last year, was said to have declared that the dam would fill to capacity against all odds.

“Before Madzibaba Mwicho died he had told us that we cry for rains until the heavens responded. We used to go almost every night to pray on Mbeve and Muswature mountains for water,” she said.

Madzimai Kasenya said the church wanted to see their prophet’s words fulfilled.

There are conflicting theories on what could have led to the dam spilling.

Mr Market Mangirazi (61), Madzimai Kasenya’s husband, ironically, says the dam has a spiritual aura around it.

“The dam may have filled up this much but, trust me, there will be no difference to local fishermen. It is very difficult to fish in Mazowe Dam.

“This is why fishing is no longer popular here, you can’t catch anything in that dam. The dam is loaded spiritually,” he said.’

Mr Mangirazi said anyone who has enough knowledge about the area knows about that snake custodian associated with the dam.

“My father told me that around the 1930s, there was a white farmer called John Hood who used to own the place. A large snake was seen crossing very slowly and motorists had to park their vehicles.

“They tied a rope on its tail to track its path and it went into the dam,” he said.

He added: “The snake hasn’t reappeared since. There are underground caves below the dam and that is where it is.”

It is said that the spirits of the land were angry and a ceremony had to be held to appease them.

“Spirit mediums convened and held ceremonies at Baradzanwa Mountains. We used to hear drums and music from September until December,” he said.

He believes that the spiritualists’ efforts resulted in the above-normal downpours.

“There is a spirit medium called Jomboremhuka who stays close to Masase Mountains. He is the one who was leading the rituals and everyone knows that he is powerful,” Mr Mangirazi said.

According to Mr Mangirazi, Mazowe Dam has spilled over three times since 1980.

However, despite the accounts held by locals, science seems to have a different take on the issue.

According to Zimbabwe National Water Authority, Mazowe Dam has not spilled in recent years due to unfavourable climatic conditions leading to regular droughts.

Furthermore, increased interception of water as it flows to the dam also affected the water levels.

Zinwa spokesperson Mrs Majory Munyonga said there was an increase in water abstraction upstream leading to a decline in water flows into the dam.

“There are a lot of boreholes drilled upstream within the catchment of the dam and rampant abstraction of water from these boreholes,” she said.

Believe it or not, Harare water woes have also played a part in lowering the dam’s water levels.

“Due to the erratic supply of water in Harare, bulk water companies have taken advantage of that to drill and abstract water from the boreholes.

“These activities are most experienced in the areas like Hatcliffe, Glen Forest and Christon Bank among other places,” Mrs Munyonga said.

It seems communities in Mazowe are poised for better prospects if the 98-year old dam maintains its levels.

Mrs Munyonga said the development presents a market opportunity for crafty locals living close to the dam.

“Generally, people like to visit and relax at the shores of lakes as shown by people who frequent our water bodies such as lakes Chivero, Mutirikwi and Manyame.

“This can also be done at Mazowe Dam and the local community can benefit by selling their products to the visitors,” she said.

“There was a rowing club which used to benefit from the dam around year 2000. This club stopped its activities due to low water levels. Now that the dam is full, this recreation activity can be resumed.”

Whether the previous dry spell was purely a scientific or spiritual, communities surrounding Mazowe do not seem to care.

They are all elated that their source of water is back to its former glory, bringing with it a sense of beauty that is hard to ignore.

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Article Source: The Herald