Oliver Samboko writes
IT’S not uncommon to find people in some parts of Zimbabwe with local Zambian names such Akande, Mapalo, Bupe, Mkandawire, Tembo, even Bwalya, expecially in Kariba and Karoi town in Mashonaland west province.
In fact even some historical buildings in the resort town of Kariba also bear the names of some Zambian towns. For example, some of the first housing blocks built in 1940s in Mahombekombe area by its black workers who were building the dam wall name before some Zambian towns e.g Ndola, Petauke, Lusaka and Kafue.
The is also an island on the Zimbabwean side of lake Kariba called Mandebvu island.
Last week, deep in Karoi rural, I bumped into a man in his 60s, his name he told me ‘Akande”. Not the usual malozi Akandes you find in the rich flood plains of Barotseland. This one speaks fluent Shona. A lost son of Northern Rhodesia, I concluded.
As I sat with him in an old hut, enjoying the intoxicating local brew, Mr. Akande narrated to me that actually he was born at Mahombekombe clinic in Kariba town in around 1958, and that he has never seen or known his father who, according to what he was told by his uncle was an immigrant worker from Northern Rhodesia working for Impresit, an Italian company that constructed the Kariba Damwall in the 1950s.
”My late uncle told me my mother was impregnated by a northern Rhodesian who was one of the workers at the Kariba dam wall project. I have never seen my father because he left Zimbabwe before I was born but he left word that I should be named Akande,” he narrated.
He is not alone. Many children who are now old men and women were fathered and left behind in Zimbabwe by Zambian immigrants after the completion of the Kariba Dam project. The sad story of Mr. Akande is just one of the many untold tales of Zambian descendants who can not trace their roots in Zambia.
HOW DID IT ALL START?
According to one of the oldest residents of Kariba town, Mr. Richard Siapundu, the Mahombekombe blocks were meant for men only and they were not expected to bring-in their wives and families because of their sizes. However, today, big families of five to eight occupy these same single rooms.
”People from different countries shared the Africa blocks. Most of these blocks were built by the companies that were operating that time for their workers. Any visitor in Kariba had to inform the compound officer and state the days they will be around,” he said.
”A certain white boss named Pearson, discovered that during month end, workers were missing work, because they would visit their wives back home. So to stop that, he came up with an idea. Every month end he would bring bus loads full of prostitutes from Karoi for the workers. So most of these people you find with Zambian names here, are children of prostitutes that were impregnated by Zambian men who were employed here during the construction of the damwall,” he said.
”People got all sorts of entertainment they could go fishing, traditional games and soccer. The children born out of wedlock attended Mahombekombe Primary and by that time it was called Kariba Africa school.
As to when and whether they will ever trace their relatives in Zambia, this still remains God’s heavily guarded secret.