Fourteen kilometres off Thekerani in Thyolo District there is a place which is undoubtedly attractive. The water from Ruo River falls over the cliff from almost a 30 metre descent presents a rare splendor that can be compared to the famous Victoria Falls in Zambia.
The echoes from the water splashes bring out an admirable appreciation of nature. It’s called Zoa Falls.
The people around the falls are so proud of the traditional identity. They pride themselves from performing traditional and cultural dances such as Jiri, Mabilira (which means Mangolongondo) and Chahuma. The dances, performed by men and women, are mostly done during the night.
Zoa Falls, aided by the Ruo River which runs from Mulanje Mountain and empties its water into Shire River, provides a distinct boundary line between Malawi and Mozambique. In fact the neighbouring Mozambique is currently implanting an electricity generation project on its side of the Zoa Falls.
On the Malawi side, the place is rich stories which are linked with cultural and traditional beliefs. As chairperson for Zoa Falls committee Grace Matilesi tells Society during a visit to the place. Though faced with so many challenges, Zoa Falls has a lot of fascinating tales.
Matilesi explains: “For ages this place has meant a lot to people from this area and others who visit it.
It is a sacred place such that when one wants to go down to the river you have to approach the authorities here so that they can make sacrifice rituals to attain their safety.”
She says those who disregard the rituals have ended up going missing, finding fishing pots of already cooked fish, being eaten by crocodiles, among other strange happenings.
“It is a demonstration that the spirits in the river are not happy with them and they hold them for a purpose,” Matilesi.
Some of the sacrifices that have to be made to grant people access to the river include throwing money in the river, making offerings of food stuffs such as thobwa and nsima, among others.
Says Matilesi: “This has been a tradition that has been observed for decades.”
Despite all the unique stories and beliefs and its huge tourist attraction potential, Zoa Falls in Traditional Nsabwe area under Village Head (VH) Chipangula, remains a place which is disconnected from the world.
The community around the falls has no electricity and no running water. The railway line zig-zagging the landscape is also out of use. The only link to the place is through a 14 kilometre stretch earth road from Thekerani, which is in bad state.
As Chipangula explains, people feel cut out from the rest of the world: “This place needs a good road network to make it.
The group village head donated this land for any project which is in line with boosting the tourism potential of the place.”
One thing that baffles the VG is that the whole area around Zoa Falls doesn’t have power when the Ruo River running through has the potential to generate electricity.
“We need to start moving towards maximising the potential of this place and harnessing all the gains we can get from it,” says Chipangula.
Thyolo District Commissioner Douglas Moffat says in their current development reform programme they have earmarked Zoa Falls as one of the key areas which need to be developed.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi during a visit to the site alongside other officials from his ministry pledged that as soon as the officials get back to Capital Hill they will make sure that the work should get off the ground to develop the area.
Usi agrees that Zoa Falls has the potential to contribute to the development of the community around it, the district and the country in general.
“We see this place a treasure, a vehicle for sustainable development. A lot of tourism related business can be developed due to the presence of this resource,” he says.