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farmer/village headman




February 1998


This narrator was interviewed twice: see 14.

This interview contains some interesting material. The narrator has mixed feelings about moving to the lowlands. He is extremely concerned about his invalid wife’s health and feels that being nearer to medical services could be very important; on the other hand, he fears theft, being duped and an uncertain future, especially as he only has one daughter left to help support him.

He talks of “[living] on cannabis”. It is cannabis production that allows him to have a decent life and educate his children, and he vehemently defends this livelihood, implying that despite its illegality he is doing nothing wrong: “Me, I do not steal and in fact, I will even die without ever having stolen.” Like several other narrators, he has a strong sense of the agricultural value of the land and of community support structures, even though these are weaker than they used to be and there is inadequate support for old people in particular.

Resentment and suspicion about the dam project, and the way in which decisions about the move and about compensation have been made, are strongly expressed. There is some slightly confusing discussion of the politics underlying the whole project but it is clear that the narrator feels the project officials have been patronising (and have cheated the community) and that the main chiefs have failed to stand up for people’s rights. The narrator is himself a village headman but implies he has not been able to do much because of his own poor health and his wife’s disability.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Born before the year of leroele (dust): 1933. Interesting explanation of phrase by interviewer. Personal, family and community history, including circumstances of migration to Molika-liko at the time of the “collectivisation of villages” and mention of resistance: “They refused to leave and hid among the precipices. They became wild cats in there
Section 3-4  Narrator has been a chief since the late 1960s but implies that he has not been very active because of ill-health and his wife’s disability. Complaints about the project and delays over re-housing. Cannabis: enables him and his family to live well, though traders tend to take advantage of him because of sick wife.
Section 4-5  Agriculture. Main crops grown. Growing cannabis together with maize.
Section 6  Climatic conditions – occasional frost; more often troubled by hail. Mention of someone “who mixes potions… against this hail” and “stopped it truly”. Being instructed by LHDA not to plant.
Section 7-8  Agriculture: crop rotation, most important thing is “just turning the soil in winter”. Excellent harvests, without irrigation or use of fertiliser. Communal grazing practices. Concern that in the lowlands grazing is in private hands. Variety of maize sown (“stalk with hair”) very successful here, supplies many neighbouring villages: “Right now I still have maize which I can actually show you there in the house there, which I can scoop
Section Section 8-9  Recent deaths of two of his children; only one daughter remains. Importance of “the matter of looking for a second house to resuscitate this family of mine, because it keeps being defoliated”. Equally concerned about project’s lack of care for “this wife of mine”. More on agriculture, especially maize variety, which flourishes on “this soil of here”.
Section 10-11  Exchange of seeds. Before agriculture was as good as now, narrator worked in the mines (1951); “weeding with cattle” nowadays instead of hoeing by hand. Matsema (communal labour) not as strong as before – “they are now dozing a little… because they look for the matter of moneys”. But narrator says: “by knowing one another we still help one another” and people came to his aid “with wood and water” because they knew his wife was sick.
Section 12  Hardship among old people: “…they live in a terribly pathetic way”. Narrator’s sense of responsibility for extended family. Benefits from road but high cost of public transport. LHDA project: “it almost defeats us”; not compensating “soil for soil”.
Section 13-14  Moving to the lowlands: ” In the name of my wife I will have to like it.” Fear of theft. Who is to blame for their fate? principally the main chiefs. mentions intimidation. He, too, eventually felt obliged to sign the agreement.
Section 15-16  Unfair measuring of land for compensation and patronising treatment of project workers: “You hear that you are being told? You are told just like a child.” Fears about carrying capacity of land and overcrowding of animals.