Africa is a continent away from Scotland, but no one told that to the mythological Loch Ness monster look-alike said to live in Zimbabwe in the depths of Lake Kariba. It’s more than odd that both creatures are described as serpent-like and live in lakes.
The Tonga tribe of Zambezi Valley believes their creature is actually a river god called Nyaminyami that turns the water red whenever it emerges from the depths.
The god is described by those who have seen it as being enormous with the body of a serpent and a fish-like head. The nearly 10-foot wide creature has an undetermined length, but any creature that large is capable of striking fear in the hearts of those who claim to have seen it.
One such eyewitness, the tribe’s Chief Sampakaruma, testifies that he has seen the god serpent on two separate occasions. But, that was years ago and before white men came to the valley to build a hydroelectric dam. That’s when the god of the underworld went into hiding, but not before he wreaked havoc.
Building the Dam Angered the Serpent God
The home of the serpent god was believed to be a gigantic rock that is now covered with thirty feet of water thanks to the Kariba dam. Curiosity seekers are reported to have been sucked under the waters above the rock, canoe and all, by a whirlpool Nyaminiyami created. It wasn’t enough that the river god was angered by the threat of a dam that would flood his home, but he was further infuriated that it would separate him from his beloved wife.
The construction of the dam wasn’t without what many believed to be the wrath of the mighty serpent god in his attempt to prevent the construction. During the early stages of the dam, before construction had begun, a bizarre weather pattern formed.
In an unheard of event, an Indian Ocean cyclone traveled up the shoreline into the valley, dumping over 15 inches of rain in a few hours. The river waters flooded the valley with a wall of water over 21 feet high. Many believed the river god had lashed out at the crew sent to survey the land for the dam. All of the men died in the flood. (1)
The devastation was so severe that it took over three days for helpers to make their way through the valley, only to discover a scene of horrific carnage. Mangled bodies of wildlife dangled from treetops, but those of the white workers couldn’t be found. No amount of digging and searching unearthed their remains.
The families of the missing demanded something be done to find their lost loved ones and the villagers came up with a solution. They slaughtered a black calf as a sacrifice to the river god and floated it out onto the river. The next morning, they discovered the calf was gone and in its place were the bodies of the missing workers. No one was able to explain how the missing bodies suddenly reappeared after three days and it remains a mystery to this day. (2)
Serpent God Strikes Again and Again
It was five years before the work on the dam resumed and another bizarre storm raged through the valley, destroying the dam’s foundation. Not only did the gorge flood, but as the flood waters began to recede, another powerful storm formed to deliver a second downpour that caused the waters to rise even higher.
If this wasn’t enough to convince villagers that the river god was angry, then the next flood that struck the following year certainly did. An unprecedented early rainfall inundated the valley a month before the typical rainy season. The early rains brought several flash floods that prevented work on the dam.
At the time, the villagers had no idea that the torrential rains were being delivered for over a 1,400-mile stretch. In fact, this region that sat higher than the lake area was so saturated the land gave way and the lake was soon the recipient of the overflow from the land above it. The flood waters were so vast that the river swelled over 18 feet within a 24-hour period and roared over the new dam.
This once in every thousand years flood delivered 16 million liters of water per second onto the region.
You would think after all this devastation that the dam project would have been abandoned, but in December 1958, the dam was officially opened at a total cost of 80 lives.
The memory and stories of the great floods are interwoven with the myth of the serpent god’s revenge. Even today, whenever the earth tremors with minor earthquakes, those living in the area remark that it’s the god, Nyaminyami, trying to break through the dam wall to reunite with his wife.