Saturday, 15 November 2008

An apartheid project (Lesotho Highlands Water Project ) - by Omega Bula

Omega Bula is Executive Minister in the United Church of Canada's Justice Global and Ecumenical Relations. See her early career and current biography. Her poem was first published in Sacred Earth, Sacred Community (Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative, 2000)


My name is Lerato
it means love
my people believe that
we all come into this world for a purpose
our names to describe our tasks and responsibilities
our values and dreams
for our country, villages and communities
heartland, rivers, mountains and valleys.

My people have lived here
as long as we can remember
our ancestors are buried here
they watch over us and give us our purpose for life
they guide us in the keeping of the natural order of life
they take away confusion and helplessness
they give us hope for our land
our land is sacred.

Our country has befriended the white man
who has brought us the "project"
they tell us that our country is poor
because we have nothing to export
the project will export water to South Africa
this will bring us economic benefits
people will get jobs
there will be cash incomes in our villages.

The project needs our land
our villages must move
to new and strange areas
we have lost our mountains
our grass thatched rondhovel
river valleys where we grew maize,
beans, millet and vegetables
cattle, sheep, goats and chickens.
Katse dam, Lesotho
They have promised us
schools, clinics and roads,
food handouts and matchbox houses.
No one has promises for our changed lives,
for the poverty, drugs and crime,
the soil that has been washed away,
the last grazing lands
there is no promise for the healing of our land.

My sister Lineo has gone to Maseru
she is a widow, she has no rights to land
did I say rights? rights for a widow?
A widow has no rights in our culture
she has no access to land
I fear that in the city she will lose her soul
she will be alone
in a strange land.

They have killed my name
my identity, my love for life, my dreams
God's purpose for my being
it is an apartheid project
a project for the rich
friends of the white man
who do not deliver promises
not to the poor and landless.

God of our ancestors, stand with us.

Background: In the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, South Africa obtained the rights to more than 40 per cent of Lesotho's only natural resource, water. See Wikipedia on LHWP and Katse Dam, Mountain Voices interviews with Basotho, Nicholas Hildyard's The Lesotho Highland Water Development Project - What Went Wrong? (Or, rather: What went Right? For Whom?), Odious Debts, Ninham Shands engineers, S Africa official statement on the megaproject, S Africa Institute for Security Studies on LHWP corruption trials, Global Policy Forum on the World Bank's role in the corruption, International Rivers and Inter Press Service on biodiversity impacts. Jacques Leslie's book Deep Water (his website has photos and stories of the people he interviewed) compares the effects of LHWP, the Murray dam in Austalia, and the Narmada in India. En français: Jacques Leslie, La Guerre des Barrages.

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