Week 9

The book for this week, Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development was a very well cited and historically rich book that delved into the stories of the individual- on the ground level experiencing the migration processes and the intensive labour demands that accompanied the constructing of the Cahora Bassa Dam. These were locals indigenous to the Zambezi Valley who’d been displaced and implicated by the construction of the Cahora Bassa in Mozambique. The book is a fascinating read for anyone who has a strong inclination towards ecology and sociology and what the energy sector can impose on to this almost symbiotic relationship that exists between the two disciplines. The many oral accounts of colonial cruelty imposed on to the displaced indigenous groups by the Portuguese not excluding out-sourced engineers and South African foremen indicates a history of violence that would accompany the grandeur of development that was perceived to be the Cahora Bassa Dam. People native to the highlands where soil remained highly fertile and fresh water access was immediately available were told to leave there homes with less than a month’s notice, trucks came and people were coerced under great duress to pile in to be relocated while there homes and crops were burned and their ancient burial grounds flooded. Their new homes (aldeamentos) were nothing but coarse, stone ridden dirt land with huts no more than 3m apart. They were confined in these areas by barbed wire and the Portuguese military prohibited an outside travel or escape. This was in large part to the Frelimo counter movement that were becoming a growing threat to the Colonizers just before the time of construction, this control of the displaced people would ensure they would not sympathize with the guerrilla forces and become unmanageable as subjects. The camps were described literally as death camps, the people were subject to malnutrition because of agricultural restraint policies and they suffered poor hygiene from lack of water and malaria and cholera running ramped. The Construction process of the dam was no better, few displaced people’s were used for important roles and jobs that would stem economic wealth in place of the restricted market places between camps and the outside world and the Mining company would purposefully censor the area and all inquiring media personnel so that unsafe working conditions and inhumane treating of workers (beatings and sometimes tortured to death if a Frelimo sympathizer) could continue as a main practice to maximize expenditure allocating on the project. Often workers would fall, be crushed, blown up and would collapse from such poor sustenance being offered to the workers. Within this development process, racial dimensions inclusive of a radicalized system of oppression were greatly utilized to establish a hierarchy of abuse which would ultimately subscribe to (if not further perpetuate) a de-humanizing narrative. The promises of a better life and a road to development in the rural provinces with access to amenities had all been propaganda to quicken the process of this project so that it would benefit the colonial oppressors and consequentially completely disregard any locals who would come to stand in its way, the dam was an indication of power consolidation and a bridge to economic prosper. The violence that would ensue in the country from the opposition deemed “guerrilla terrorists” and the oppressive induced hate from these workers, displaced people’s and their families would be an indication to the lasting effects of a colonialist stronghold on a country years after it becomes liberated and how this trauma creates little opportunity for a countries institutions to be stable following these watershed moments of development. Once the damn was built, South Africa would black ball Mozambique’s ambitions even once liberated by disabling it economically specifically through its energy capabilities that may have sufficed for the entire country. Now coming into the neo-liberal age the political coercion continues, though narratives of violence dull new ways of exploitation and deception pour its way into the country as Post-apartheid South Africa capitalizes on the output provided by the colonial project and Mozambique direly attempts to attract FDI. I enjoy these chapters because they had real (orally shared) stories in them, I did not know the names of those telling them but they seemed all too real not to believe and try to imagine simultaneously. This development process had a heinous, unacceptable aspect to it as it affected so many groups and identities in its wake including the marginalization of women as prostitutes for out-sourced European employees. Development it would seem is a word, derived from practices that produce as a part of their bi-product such injustices and lasting effects on areas who may only recycle the colonial narrative and inherent structures (evident in Frelimo’s villagization and the second dam proposal). This was colonial recklessness and ruthlessness at its finest and very much interconnected with past weeks readings of mining exploitation underlining racially driven labour initiatives and schematics of power and a still present colonial after-ripple in the continent that refuses to allow time and space for autonomy or mutual benefitting relationships.

Could those dislocated in the future at the very least become shareholders of the Dam?

Could an overseeing body of governance in the future with numerous commerce ties allow for a democratic process to take place as whether or not an area should be condemned for implementing a Dam?

What are other ways Mozambique could diversify to compete globally?

What does a de-damming process look like if possible? Could a fruitful business ever be spawned from reviving ecological systems in the area?


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