Cinderella of Africa"
Jheri St. James
Formerly Northern Rhodesia, Zambia
is an independent republic in south-central Africa. With an
area of 290,584 sq. mi. Zambia is bordered by Zaire on the
north; Tanzania on the northeast; Malawi and Mozambique on
the east; Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia on the south; and
Angola on the west. Zambia has excellent national parks teeming
with birds and other animals, as well as the spectacular Victoria
Falls and Zambezi River. Apart from sightseeing, these places
are also centers for activities ranging from canoeing to white-water
rafting and bungee jumping.
Neil Stipanich was in Zambia
recently and collected soil near this stupendous waterfall
known as Victoria Falls. This picture he took is so immediate
one feels the spray. Surely soil from a paradise that looks
like this must have a peaceful history.
But no, much political dissent and turmoil has cascaded over
the falls of history in Zambia, as with all of the countries
in the Common Ground 191 project—Gary Simpson’s
impetus for this important project. The territory of Northern
Rhodesia was administered by the South Africa Company, from
1891 until it was taken over by the UK in 1923. During the
20’s and 30’s, advances in mining spurred development
and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon reaching
independence in 1964. In the 1980’s and 1990’s,
declining copper prices and a prolonged drought hurt the economy.
Also during the 90’s an end to one-party rule and blatant
harassment of opposition parties occurred.
Neil says, “The sides of the river at Victoria Falls
were covered in lush vegetation, but the only animals we saw
were birds, other than the hippos that lived in the water
outside our room (three-sided with one open wall that looked
out on the river).
The location was rural, though
Livingstone (a moderate sized city) was only five miles away.
We saw mostly tourists, not much in the way of industry.”
The Lonely Planet website says, “For
independent travelers Zambia is still a challenge—distances
are long, and getting around takes persistence, particularly
once you get off the main routes. But for many people, the
challenge is the main attraction. Without a doubt, in Zambia
you come pretty close to finding the ‘real’ Africa.
For many years, Zambia was the Cinderella of Africa, often
overlooked by tourists and forgotten by the rest of the world
as disastrous politics in the 70’s and 80’s led
to poverty and virtual breakdown of the country. But by the
90’s the fortunes of Zambia changed, as a massive shift
on the political scene led to economic reforms and other improvements.
Sadly, Zambia struggles with HIV/AIDS, as
many of its neighboring countries do. Life expectancy is only
35 years, largely because of the 1.8 million people living
with this plague. There are also many environmental issues
extant in Zambia: air pollution, acid rain, chemical runoffs,
poaching of wild life, deforestation, soil erosion, desertification,
lack of adequate water treatment.
unfamiliar with the story, Cinderella was a young girl who
was treated as a servant by an evil stepmother and three mean
stepsisters. Her name issued from one of her jobs, sweeping
up cinders in the fireplace. But, through the intercession
of a kindly fairy godmother, Cinderella ended up dressed beautifully
at the Prince’s ball. After some suspense involving
a glass slipper, she subsequently became the Princess, to
the great chagrin of her step-relatives. Perhaps the current
progress being made by Zambia is the beginning of a real Cinderella
story. No glass slippers needed, but a fairy godmother wouldn’t