Whispers from the Depths, written by Liz Wickins and Mike Wickins, is the story of the building of Kariba Dam in the mid-1950s, but it focuses as much, if not more, on the significant consequences of the project, most notably on the inhabitants of the area, and the wildlife.
It covers a brief history of the two main countries involved, modern day Zimbabwe and Zambia, explaining the political circumstances surrounding the decision to dam the Zambezi for hydro-electric power. The primary driver was to the demand created by the burgeoning copper industry in Zambia, which was being hamstrung at the time, by unreliable power supply. In engineering terms, the project was massively ambitious for its time, and would take 5 years to complete, despite the many setbacks it faced. At the time, the pyramids of Egypt were considered the only man-made structures in Africa bigger than the mammoth dam wall. The challenges of location and weather were huge and the consequences far-reaching, which gives this story great dimension.
As the reservoir began to fill, animals got trapped on newly formed islands which led to ‘Operation Noah’ which was the rescue of these animals. As part of examining the consequences of building the dam, the facts have been extended to current times.
The heart of the book however, surrounds an estimated 57 000 Tonga people, who had lived alongside the Zambezi in the Gwembe valley for centuries. They would be forcibly removed from the valley to make way for the gargantuan reservoir that was to form. They were people driven by ancestral worship who had to walk away from family graves and spiritual sites that are now buried in the depths of Kariba waters. That is what motivated the title for this book. The book describes the Tonga people before and after resettlement, showing them to be a good natured people with a complex and interesting culture. Resettlement was not always kind and led to great hardship and the book seeks to demonstrate the failing in proper planning and care for them.
Hopefully it will provide a lesson to be remembered for the future.
View the Whispers from the Depths website HERE
About the Authors
Liz Wickins has always lived in Johannesburg. Her writing was originally inspired by the need to tell the story of the life of her son, Jonathan, who was born with Down syndrome and has since passed away. This was the start of putting thoughts on paper.
She stumbled onto the subject of Kariba while researching another book and became totally fascinated and engrossed and has felt a very strong commitment to tell the story of Kariba as she believes South Africans deserve to know about it.
Mike Wickins was born and raised in Johannesburg, where he also qualified as a lawyer, a field in which he practiced for several years, before joining an investment bank, where he currently works in the field of Energy finance.
Mike became involved in writing Whispers from the Depths when Liz Wickins, his aunt, told him of the story she was researching.
Mike is married to Vanessa and they have three children.
Published by Tracey McDonald Publishers