The Sunday News
Sithatshisiwe Gwaza, Sunday News Reporter
FOR a number of years that count into decades, the expansive water pool in Bulawayo’s Entumbane suburb C section commonly known as Enkwalini had become a hydra whose jaws were always open and ready to swallow troubled souls seeking to find their way to eternity by way of suicides.
Several other innocent lives of small kids and school children were also lost while swimming or attempting to swim.
It is for that reason that the pool was given the moniker pool of death. It became an easy crossing point to the world yonder because the pool never dried up and no-one including successive city councils ever dreamt of a permanent solution to the problem despite the fact that it was all becoming very common that people were dying there.
A number of councillors for the area have on numerous occasions spoken about it but that would only be after an unfortunate incident of death and it would simply end there. A solution seemed far-fetched. Not only difficult but painful and therefore people continued to die.
Theories and myths began to emerge. Superstitious residents suggested there was an angry mermaid. Some said the pool needed to be cleansed of evil spirits that have taken so many troubled lives and were attracting others to it in similar fashion. The long and short of it is that it had become an enigma but all that is until recently. The place has since been fenced off and the water has been brought to good and productive use. Its many negatives have all been overshadowed by the positives that are coming up in quick motion.
Enkwalini has become a good example of the aphorism, where others see a problem difficult to deal with, others see opportunities and the development emboldens the writing on the wall that no more are people going to throw themselves into the pool of death with reckless abandon and without thought.
It is unimaginable that the pool that had seen so many years of neglect yet unblinkingly taking with it so many lives has since been secured and transformed into a thriving urban agriculture project benefiting those that it used to threaten by its mere unsecured presence.
The pool was a result of quarry mining activities in the Rhodesian era, which quarry was used for various construction projects in the city. And like so many other abandoned mines in the country it remained unreclaimed due to failure of policy posing a risk to human and animal life as well as scarring the environment.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s corporate communications manager Mrs Nesisa Mpofu confirmed that Enkwalini was once a quarry mine that was established in the 1970s for purposes of construction. She said Enkwalini is a Ndebele word roughly meaning a place where one gets quarry stone. She said its depth, resulting from the open cast mining activities left a huge deep open hole that has since formed into a dam that never dries.
A resident of the suburb who lives close to the pool of death Ms Roseline Mlilo said they have been using the water for their gardens and small fields that are in the vicinity. She however, said a worrying trend was that people were dying in the pool.
“The dam would provide us with water to do our gardens. In times of critical water shortages we would get water for toilets, for construction and general cleaning from the pool but a worrying trend is that the dam would more often accommodate troubled individuals who saw in its placid but deep expanse an opportunity to escape the misery of their life,” said Ms Mlilo.
She said the fact that people committed suicide in the pool after realising that Enkwalini dam never dried up compared to the Etiyeni dam which is in the same suburb paved way for rumors that there was a mermaid in the pool.
The myth, she said, was compounded by the belief that mermaids want where there are deep waters as well as the number of people who were drowning there.
Gogo maNcube (83) of Entumbane echoed the same sentiments saying the first incident of a drowning young man, opened the gates of drownings at the pool.
“As rescuers removed the body from the pool, the masses learned of its depth and the suicidal spree commenced,” she said.
Gogo maNcube added that despite being the death pool that it had become, Enkwalini had its own advantages to the community.
“The pool was good for fishing expeditions. It was an unrivalled water source for building and cleaning as well as for toilets during critical water shortages in town. Besides, we used the water for our gardens, which benefits we can no longer access because it has now been fenced off and is now a private property. I am not complaining because it was not good that people were losing lives.
The barricading was long overdue,” she said.
Entumbane councilor, Cllr Sinikiwe Mutanda said Enkwalini was popular for all the bad reasons and the fencing off of the pool was going to put a stop in the cases of drownings.
“The pool was now a great cause for concern with drownings both accidental and suicides, it had become so scary especially that children could easily access it. Now that the area has been fenced off and the water put to productive use we are indeed delighted, there is some reprieve now,” said Cllr Mutanda.
Another resident Mr Themba Mkhena believes Enkwalini has bad spirits that pull people to commit suicide just by being near the place. He said the myth of a mermaid living there might just be an unconfirmed truth. To avert the dangers of drowning and suicide, the Bulawayo City Council leased the place in 2017 and it has since been manned by security guards.
Sunday News visited the site and spoke to the chief caretaker Mr Butholezwe Sibanda who was in the company of fellow staff members and a pack of dogs numbering 16.
He said the pool was fenced off in 2019 by the lease owner – a Mr Nkomazana who employed caretakers who also work as security guards and renamed the place Enkwalini Urban Farming where part of the land is being used for an orchard while a chicken rearing and fisheries project is taking shape. For now only maize, groundnuts and roundnuts have been grown.
The fowl run has already been established for chickens while a good piece of land is being tilled for irrigation using the water from the pool. Not much detail could be extracted from Mr Sibanda on most of the plans but he said he was confident that serious farming activity would commence soon.
“The place was leased to my boss, Mr Nkomazana by the city council in 2017. We however, managed to fence off the area in 2019 and since then, there hasn’t been any cases of suicide reported. The plan is to use the water for irrigation of crops that we will be growing as well as the chickens and fruit trees,” he said.
He also stressed that in as much as the community members were shut out of the place they still access water when there were water shortages but under strict supervision. He said the call to fence off the pool of death meant that the community needed to respect the lease owner and avoid trespassing.
It meant that the community has to forgo some of the benefits like fishing for the greater good of agriculture produce, employment and most importantly that there will be no more deaths at the pool either accidental or deliberate.
“It is unfortunate that fishermen have been shut out although one can easily say it is a necessary evil. We are happy that the community is at ease with the development and the security measures which makes our work a lot easier,” he said.
He however, rebuffed claims that there was a mermaid at the pool saying those were just myths born out of the loss of lives and the circumstances under which it would have happened.
The Bulawayo City Council also believed the fact that the dangerous pool had been securely fenced and guarded round the clock was an indirect benefit to the community of Entumbane that had lived to witness unfortunate incidences of drowning.