Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Lake Ngami – Dicing with death for a living

The mood is low and there are just a handful of people surrounding the coffin. “I can control my destiny, not my fate,” one mourner said. “She is dead and tomorrow it could be me. That is the nature of our life”.

The woman being laid to rest is his mother, who was mauled by a crocodile in Lake Ngami. The mother of two, like everyone from the surrounding villages lived off the generosity of the lake.

On the fateful day, she had set out with two colleagues who are also career fisherman to cast their nets. A few hours later, the two fishermen heard a loud scream a few metres away from where they were trolling for fish. When they reached the site where the loud cry originated, they were met with shock and horror: They saw a crocodile performing the death spin with their beloved friend.

I saw “splashes and heard a very loud cry as she tried to free herself from the jaws of the crocodile,” said Thato who witness the attack.

“It was too late for us to do anything to help her. We could only watch in shock as the waters returned to normalcy. At that point, I knew she was gone”.

The fisherman immediately returned to the shores to seek help. It was only after twenty four hours that the morning sunlight revealed the gruesome scene which had occurred a few days earlier.

The body of the mother of two was found floating at the edge of the lake, heavily mutilated and hardly recognisable. “When I saw the body, I knew it was her because of the red top she was wearing.”

“All the villagers, especially fishermen, are very much aware of the hazard posed by the crocodiles. But we have no choice because we have to feed our families. Crocodile attacks are not a new phenomenon, it is part of life. What hurts is when it ends in death”.

As the sun sets, several other fishermen could be seen on their way to the lake. Unfortunately, not even death can deter them, this is their way of way of life and it is business as usual.

Fish farming in Ngamiland remains a key resource for the rural communities on the fringes of the Okavango Delta. The fishing ban imposed on Lake Ngami and Lake Xau last year expired on February 28th, 2016.


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