Mufulira Mystique

Written By: The Lowdown - Apr• 30•13

2013 04 small coverThe mention of Mufulira Dam usually meets with an empty gaze. ‘Oh, that’s that place out . . . near, um . . . Mufulira?’ is the general comment usually accompanied by an indecisive wave of a hand suggestive of it being ‘over there somewhere’. A popular weekend recreational choice back in the 70’s and 80’s for those who lived on the Copperbelt, in the last few years however, it has met with decline and no longer visited.


Now under the watchful gaze of Mopani Mine’s John Munro, the dam is slowly springing to life again. It was so uncared for that the grass had been allowed to grow past shoulder height and it was barely possible to see the jetty when he first took it over. No one but local fishermen made use of it at all and the dam itself was a favourite place for border jumpers from Congo to try and cross.


We spent the Independence holiday there last year, even going as far as to spend two nights camped out in the grounds of the Boat Club. Admittedly, we were the only ones there, but there are active plans underway to resurrect the camping grounds and ablution block. For someone who has known far, far worse than what this club house has to offer in terms of toilets and showers, I was actually very impressed. The toilets were clean and supplied with toilet paper and the showers had both hot and cold water. What else do you need?


Interest in the dam has already begun in the Mufulira community. A number of companies and private individuals keep launches on the dam and some people just come with their boats for the day. We took a sail board and were surprised at how strong the wind was out on the dam. It was great fun going out, although one did have a slight feeling of trepidation that getting back may not be so easy! Many people say that there are no rivers or dams in Africa without crocodiles, so perhaps wind surfing wasn’t quite the right water sport to indulge in. However, I also think it’s a good idea to ask the locals, and none of them had seen a croc there in years.


The dam was once a popular power boat racing spot and a lookout tower on a thin peninsula near the jetty confirms this. Unfortunately the rooms in the tower are in a state of disrepair, but part of the resurrection plan is to have them painted and the glass replaced in the windows. The tower itself is being converted into a small one bedroomed chalet with a view to die for. It is also hoped that all forms of watercraft will be encouraged to return once all renovations have been made and the dam can be publicised more widely.


John has raised sponsorship through a local businessman and work will soon be starting on a large, open-sided lapa set amongst the Acacia trees on a peninsula near the jetties. The lapa with its tranquil setting, will provide an additional facility for private functions should they be so desired. Plans are afoot to lawn spacious areas underneath shady fig trees along the same peninsula for picnic spots. The braai shelters have already been revamped and are available for immediate use.


In the past the dam was also well-known for its motocross trail, one that is now sadly overgrown and dilapidated. Although not currently high on the list of priorities, there is a possibility that this may one day be useable once again. Everything depends on demand and how widely used the course might be.


A few years ago a Mufulira resident began building chalets near the dam in the hope that this might also encourage people to come out for the weekend. Plans have since gone ahead to complete these as well as refurbish two other old cottages so shortly there will be 3 or 4 self contained chalets for rental. John Munro also hopes to introduce wildlife into the area, as long as he can put measures in place to prevent poaching. In February 2013 John arranged the release of 100,000 fingerlings into the dam to help regenerate the fish population which had sadly been depleted through illegal and frequent use of nets. He and his team of workers have already removed and destroyed over 300 metres of illegal fish nets. Illegal fishermen have been sensitised to the situation and prosecutions will follow if their activities continue.


Renovations also continue in the main club house, which is rather weathered and dated. It is the type of place you imagine to be full of ghosts, nightly re-enacting their former pursuits and conversations. There are photos in a crumbling frame of parties held at least twenty five years ago and various trophies and shields won in long ago tournaments. Work has started on the kitchen which was in a particular state of disrepair. There are hopes that a rejuvenated kitchen will be able to serve bar food in the future and that this will be one of the main draws to the dam. Braai packs are already on sale from the barman. In Mufulira, one is not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat out so it will also provide the vital ‘thing to do’ at the weekends.


The bar area is actually quite cosy; it’s very English pub-like in its decor and is even now able to offer a reasonably wide selection of drinks (I wouldn’t ask for their cocktail menu, however!) The swimming pool is in a sad state of disrepair and sponsors to rebuild it are currently being sought so watch this space. A small playground has been introduced for the children and this too is becoming a draw card feature for Mufulirans and their families.


Various benches and chairs placed between the club house and the water make watching the sun set possible – and an enjoyable experience as it invariably is in Africa. There is little more pleasurable than watching a day slowly draw to its end; people making their way slowly home and hearing the water softly lapping at the jetty. The best thing is that it is still possible to do, so make the most of it and go to Mufulira.


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