Drought and politics


Drought like death, when they occur, always leads to or results in a lot of talk, some of it not very palatable. While it is a known fact that once born what is left is for one to die, there is always talk after a death as if this is a strange phenomenon. And so is the same with drought.

Scientists are quick to blame the poor peasant farmer for cutting down trees and silting the rivers, thus disturbing the environment. The poor peasant who needs -and depends on- the rains much more than anyone else gets the blame. Those responsible for the ozone layer tell the poor world this. While it may be scientifically true, the same peasant farmer always blames the drought or death on interference by someone.

While politicians have exonerated themselves, fingers are apparently being pointed more and more at them. The keeper of Njelele, which is supposed to be the national shrine for rainmaking ceremonies, David Ndlovu, seems to think they and some chiefs are responsible for the current drought.

He says rainmaking ceremonies were held as usual in August and September last year and the gods seemed to have accepted the prayers as there was a good start to the season. But come October things went amiss. The shrine, in the Matopo Hills, was closed on November 6 on the orders of the local chiefs and the district administrator and the country has been crying since.

While previous droughts used to affect parts of the country, this year’s drought covers the entire country. Towns and cities are in trouble.

Yet, Ndlovu says, there is a simple solution. Those who ordered the Njelele shrine to be closed should reopen it and cleanse it and the country will have rains within 48 hours. He says although the shrine has never been closed before every time something goes wrong and people accept this and appease the spirits, they have a good season.

Apparently he says the leaders had already agreed to meet on February 1 to rectify the problem but the meeting was postponed because of the funeral of the first lady. A month has gone by now, why not hold the ceremony?

The Insider understands that the people of Manicaland have also sent a delegation to the President to do something since rain forests in the area which should have showers throughout have also gone dry.

Of course, some people, will say that is all nonsense. Science has shown that there is a drought every four years. It could be. It might not be. But why not just do what the elders ask?

If the rains do not come, people can say: “We did what you asked but it did not rain,” then try something else.

To leave it entirely to the Almighty seems to be taking too much of a risk. After all some say “God helps those who help themselves.”


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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