Mmegi Online :: The dancing reeds of the Shashe Dam
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Last Updated
Tuesday 20 November 2018, 13:46 pm.
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The dancing reeds of the Shashe Dam

SHASHE BRIDGE: The serenity and tranquillity prevalent at the Shashe Dam cannot be ignored. The place has a miraculous pull to calm all senses.
By Staff Writer Tue 20 Nov 2018, 20:32 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The dancing reeds of the Shashe Dam








On the whole the dam presents a picture of true beauty and wonder of nature that emerges as one gets closer and closer to the dam. As a man-made lake, the Shashe dam has succeeded in generating its own identity, unique surroundings and atmosphere.

At a glance the dam site appears like a dull place with no movement, when in actual fact there is plenty of movement and abundant life. One cannot ignore the melodious chirping of birds communicating in a language better understood only by them.

The naturally growing multi-coloured beautiful flowers around the dam site attract many birds that have now found a home there. Birds fly in different patterns and there is complementary rhythmic movement of trees. There is also unending movement in the water and outside as the flowering reeds dance incessantly as a stubborn breeze blows the water-borne plants back and forth.

Everything seemed to be in motion. The systematic movement of the waves of the dam water attracts the viewer's eye especially as it fades into the horizon where the naked eyes cannot see any more. When Mmegi visited the dam on Monday this week, the dam was full to capacity. The recent rains have boosted it so much that dam water was still way over the banks and onto the thickets around the dam site. The vegetation around is green; the reeds in the water are as tall as the trees. The vegetation here is teeming with life.

The blossoming flowers are signs of emerging life. There are many bird nests hanging from the water reeds, which support a variety of birdlife around the dam area.  The general view around the Shashe dam is truly therapeutic.

The calming power of nature can be experienced at this place. Even the smell of water, wet and apparently fertile soil and some unexplained smell of nature fill the air. 

Some people might have only seen a surrounding like this one at Shashe dam on the television or nature programmes or in the movies. People from the neighbouring villages of Shashe-Bridge, Mandunyane and Tatisiding are living it.

The dam is situated a few kilometres off the A-1 Highway that links Francistown and Gaborone. It is located between the neighbouring villages of Shashe-Bridge, Mandunyane and Tatisiding.

Built in 1970, the Shashe dam has become a source of livelihood for those living around it and beyond. Besides the basic source of water there is a lot more life around the dam for people and other living beings. Fishermen, who ply their trade in the dam, have literally turned the dam waters into their second home. Some people fish merely for subsistence, whilst others fish for commercial and sporting purposes. Shashe dam is often a hive of activity as sailing clubs slug it out in the waters. The dam supports motley of human activities and brings people of different social and political orientations together.

For herdsmen and women, the dam is obviously their meeting place as this is where cattle, sheep and goats are followed once they fail to turn up at their kraals. Besides the tendency by some to pollute the dam waters, the dam site can be a perfect picnic spot. It is also a potential tourist attraction site with its variety of migratory birds and other fauna and flora. A whole day's visit to the dam can provide a long lasting therapeutic effect on many although the dam site is almost a no-go area as people tend to abuse opportunities given to them by polluting the waters. There is abundant evidence in the waters that after their catch, some unscrupulous characters just throw offal of fish into the dam. Some, after indulging one or two beers, indiscriminately litter the place. During an interview with some residents it emerged that they regard Shashe dam as legendary and mythical.

"One person, of Zezuru or Shona extraction, was swept away by a heavy wave of water near the spillway and some of his relatives and friends hold the strong view that when he returns he will be a traditional doctor." These are some of the comments that flew around, confirming that some people in the villages think that the river has some mystical powers and creatures.

"There are no snakes in this dam except the one that produces a huge lighting at night that some people claim to be living in the waters since a long time ago. We might have never seen it but it's there, some people have seen it. claims Nicholas Monnawapula, whom the Mmegi team met at a local Chibuku depot as he quenched the thirst just before lunchtime.  Monnapula and Douglas Japi are both natives of Shashe-Bridge and are willing to tell a few tales they know about the dam. One thing that becomes

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apparent as they continue relating their tales is that they are proud to have one of the biggest dams in the country in their backyard.  Monnapula says that the dam is well respected and well understood in the village but the problem is with those people who come from various places.

"We have never heard of anyone from the village here, drowning in the dam. People who come from Francistown and other places are the ones who sometimes drown," he says. The duo have been swimming in the dam ever since they were young. "I can go quite a distance swimming and I know my way in the dam. Even though I cannot go across the whole dam I can go a distance safely because I know the way," says Monnapula.

Monnapula adds that a few months ago there was a rogue hippopotamus in the dam, but some Department of Wildlife and National Parks officials had to put it down because it was a danger to the public.

He quickly lists animals found in the dam as turtles, fish, otters, the water snake, known as leguaan, and many different birds. Japi says that though angling is not allowed in the dam without permits, people still fish and sell fish.

"An otter can be caught in a net of fish when people are fishing and sometimes it eats the tails of the fish in the net or at the end of the rod," he points out. He further indicates that other than the Shashe River feeding the dam, there are three other tributaries.

"Mairoro, Lunyi and Swiki are just tributaries and the main one is Shashe River," he stresses. The two men seemed to enjoy talking about the dam as they reminisced about old times that have occurred around the dam - both the good and the bad ones.

They also talked about the people who unfortunately drowned and all the activity that goes on around there.

"There are so many domesticated animals that drink at the dam especially cattle and goats," notes Japi. Shashe-Bridge headman of records Abram Moipolai Kgaje relates the story of Shashe dam. He talks of the benefits and challenges of his village hosting such a big dam. When the Shashe dam was built it found Shashe-Bridge village already in existence around 1970.

Kgaje was quick to point out his disappointment on how the dam failed to bring the developments that were anticipated when it was first built. "We thought that the dam would bring developments to our village quickly but they are coming very slowly. For a village that has the dam right next door to it, I don't think enough is being done in terms of developments," he notes.

He talked about the road that leads to them which is still gravel. "For more than 30 years the dam has been here but nothing has been done about this road. It is still dusty and bad but it is going to the dam. We are very disappointed about it," he declares disappointedly. The availability of the water in the village, he says, has also brought about livestock rustling.

"Many animals that stray into the dam area go missing as people in this area steal their calves. Since the beginning of this year we have more than 10 incidents of stock theft," remembers Kgaje. He further says it was still not easy for people in the villages surrounding the dam to get permits to fish.

"People cannot get permits to fish because they do not know how to go about it," observes the headman. He indicates that this leads to people fishing without permits.  "Young people here are always involved in running battles with Water Utilities Corporation WUC) authorities who confiscate their catch and fishing nets.  The headman of records, feels that for an area that is housing a large dam the people should be able to benefit more as they could have gardens around the dam, have a fishing trust to speed up developments or have tourist attraction places around the dam.

Finally Kgaje strongly feels that people who come to the dam for recreational purposes, help the economic well-being of the people by buying from the village businesses, but there are disadvantages as well. "They help us by boosting our businesses but on the other hand they throw litter indiscriminately, make noise and sometimes they drown in the dam," queries the village leader. "Everyone has used the water from the Shashe dam at one point or another as we hear that the dam is linked to the multi-million Pula North-South Water Carrier."

Shashe dam supplies water to the Greater Francistown area and two years ago an upgrade and refurbishment of the water supply master plan costing a whopping P176 million was completed.

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