The Tonga People in Zimbabwe: A forgotten people.

For many years the Tonga people (a semi-nomadic people) lived peacefully along both sides of the Zambezi River in North-Western Zimbabwe. They cultivated alluvial soils based on recession agriculture which depended on the flood regime of the river. The Tonga people could harvest crops twice a year and were seldom afflicted by hunger and famine. The river valley provided them with wild animals as well as fruits. The Zambezi River held a constant supply of fish. The Tonga people had three distinct characteristics namely, (a) they spoke the Tonga language, (b) practiced the worship of a fish-like god of Zambezi called Nyaminyami and (c) had a distinct culture. Their ancestors had lived and died on their land for centuries and their graves were on the land. The Tonga had a direct connection with and attachment to land

In the 1950's government officials (without consultation) decided to flood the Tonga's lands to create a dam to produce hydroelectric power. The Tonga were displaced from the river valley (they were rounded up and packed in lorries) and relocated to the higher, dry country marred by low and erratic rainfall, poor rocky and sandy soils, and tsetsefly infestation (areas like Binga, Nyaminyami, Hwange and Gokwe). Without access to the river the Tonga people were now dependent on the hunting of wild animals. However, the government soon passed the Protection of Wildlife Act which required hunters to have permits in order to hunt. For the most part, the people could not afford to pay the hunting fees.

But You Gave Us Your Word!!!
When the people were relocated, the then government promised that they were going to construct small dams in the new resettlement areas and pipelines from the Kariba reservoir to the new areas. Government also promised to construct schools, clinics and roads.

What Happened To The Promises?
However, no dams were built for the communities. So, since that time, people have been experiencing acute water shortages in these new areas, something that they never experienced during the time they lived along the banks of the Zambezi River. People still walk around 10 or more kilometers to get water. No hospitals or clinics were built for the Tonga community. As regards schools, very few secondary schools were built after independence in these areas but still they are not enough. Today, some children must walk up to 20 kilometers to a secondary school, the same for clinics.

Look At Us Now!!!
The consequences are that the Tonga community currently suffers from acute food and water shortages. The majority of the 250,000 Tonga are now heavily reliant on national and international food aid. Despite the tourism and fishing opportunities of Lake Kariba, the Tonga community did not benefit from the construction of the Kariba Dam and the five-star hotels, resorts, and safari camps that were being built along the shores of Lake Kariba. Unemployment remains high. They have been robed of an opportunity to worship their Nyaminyami god, use their language and are dissociated from their ancestral land.

Because they are a minority, their voice is not heard. They cannot successfully fight for inclusion in the mainstream society without your contribution. Donate your money, skill and time. The time to act is now!!!!


For more information contact Innocent Maja:
Innocent Maja
Maja and Associates
ph: +263 4 2927172

Or contact Mohamed Motavu, MRG's Africa Regional Information Officer via the Contact page.  

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Date: 26/03/2010




Indigenous Peoples
Land Rights

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