Bets have been made. Estimations are constantly being revised. Some people are saying today [Friday] the first waters of the 2020 Okavango River System will arrive in Maun. Others are saying Monday. End of May. Beginning of June. But one thing is clear, the water, the legend that breathes life into Maun is definitely arriving, very soon, writes THALEFANG CHARLES from Maun
MAUN: Yesterday (Thursday), the “tongue of the water” as the locals here call it, streamed past Boro II village after stalling on the upper Boro River for two days in a big and wide bend. It is now on the narrow and steep part of the Boro River and so many are already revising their estimations of the day the water will arrive at Matapana in Maun.
The water has travelled 2,000km from the Angolan highlands, the water tower that is the source of the Okavango River system. The Luchaze people who inhabit the Angolan highlands call this Water Tower “Lisima Lya Mwono”, which means the “Source of Life”. Every year rains pour down on Lisima Lya Mwono from around November to April. The water collected flows through big rivers via Namibia and the first waters arrive in the Okavango Delta around April.
After entering Botswana at Mohembo, the Okavango River spreads at Seronga where it forms an incredible inland delta. The Okavango Delta – 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Site, spreads the water through its flat plains.
There are three main channels that are formed, Jao, Thaoge and Nqoga. Jao River is the middle channel that flows straight down to Maun. It later turns into Boro River before reaching the Kunyere flat line near the village of Boro.
Boro River will finally bring the water to Maun into the Thamalakane River. And that arrival is the source of great interest and excitement in town. Although people are still under the COVID-19 lockdown, some here cannot stand to miss the opportunity to the experience the sight of the ‘tongue of water’. Last year the drought was terrible and the rains from Angola were not enough to bring the required volumes of the water to flood the Okavango Delta and all the way to Maun. It was disheartening to see Thamalakane River dry to the bone.
Every day since the water crossed the Buffalo Fence last week, people rise up early in the morning and circumvent the COVID-19 checkpoints just to go to the river and see the water.
Yesterday, (Thursday) the water was 10 kilometres away from Maun. Many come
Kebiditswe Keetsanyo, an elderly man from Boro II says this year’s tongue of the river shows that a lot of water is coming. “Gaa kolobetse lehatshe, a heta hela” (the water does not get the soil damp before passing though, it just flows past), he explains in wonder. Rakonche Modisaotsile, also from Boro has been spending his entire days following the river. He clears out logs from the river and speaks about the current in admiration like he is a cheerleader of the river.
He says he is preparing the river for the boat ride activities, which will soon spark life back into Maun. His colourful descriptions of how the river suddenly picked up pace from last night and filled deep gaping holes in the space of minutes, tell a story of a river lover. And this is why these people live here.
Many people in Maun say if it were not for the COVID-19 lockdown, they would be out walking the tongue of the water. It is a tradition in Maun to keep up with the ‘tongue’ of the new water.
“We can spend the whole day here. Helping it to flow fastest, drawing lines on the riverbed, making wishes, admiring how it feels holes and covers ground,” says one resident.
On Wednesday, North West District Commissioner Keolopile Leipego had to remind people that they are still on lockdown.
“We have observed on social media members of the public who are going out into the Delta to watch and celebrate the coming of the waters of the Okavango River,” he said in a statement.
“We have seen people washing in the water and mekoro polers canoeing in the river. The public is hereby reminded that the country is still in the lockdown period and therefore, everybody should be observing the lockdown rules especially to stay at home.”