A bony stray cow grazing by what remains of the water in the Gaborone dam, gives way to a pilgrim of church members making their way to the water edges for prayers.
The dam is slowly but surely drying up and President Ian Khama has called on the nation to seek divine intervention.
As the clouds keep away, several churches and prayer groups have come together for this mission, sharing the angst of the nation in times of adversity.
As the men and women of the cloth start humming hymns of hope punctuated by emotionally charged Amens and Hallelujahs, the cow trudges on through a rocky path to join the rest of the weakened herd across the rocks which, a couple of years ago were covered in water.
Why the people have decided to endure the incinerating heat to congregate at the dam in large numbers is a story best told by one of the preachers in his sermon as he invites the faithful into a prayer.
“Just like the biblical Elijah who prayed for rains in Israel, we too are banking on prayers for the rains which have been evading us for a while.
We know and believe Oh Lord that by your will the rain may fall at this moment and cover these rocks and provide your flock with enough water to drink as it used to be the situation…!” he prays.
After that speaker after speaker or rather pastor after pastor deliver their sermon and drive home a message that couples need to start sharing a bath to save water.
Though not much of a church person, he is equally concerned about the depressing water situation, but is yet to understand why authorities insist that couples should share a bath. “I struggle to fit in my own bathtub alone,” he says in a whisper as he fidgets and scratches his head trying to figure out the bathing challenge.
Though there seems to be hope as the faithful look to the Almighty, there’s little relief on the way.
Authorities are still warning of a severe situation should the rains delay. It is a desperate situation.
The Gaborone dam water level is at 18 percent and is only left with 8 months of supply. Other nearby dams do not have much to offer either with Nnywane dam having dried up in March and the Bokaa dam left with only a month’s supply at 10 percent level.
The Molatedi dam in South Africa is at 22 percent but will only share half the capacity with Gaborone dam by the end of October.
The challenge that Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is now faced with is that when Bokaa dam dries up next month, they will not be able to supply Mochudi and the surrounding areas.
The corporation will have to rely on the troubled North-South Water Carrier (NSC) to bring water from the northern dams.
A pensive WUC Chief Executive Officer Godfrey Mudanga explains the gloomy situation: “Unfortunately the NSC has not been operating properly for the past three months.
Hardly any water reaches the Gaborone area from the northern dams because we have a 26km stretch of the pipeline near Palapye where we experience frequent bursts because of the GRP pipe material.
So unless and until it rains we are going to have a catastrophic situation,” he says as the sombre crowd gazes at the little water left in the dam. I could swear there were some teary eyes in the crowd.
The WUC boss adds by way of assurance, that the corporation is working hard to fix the NSC pipes.
“The long term solution is that we’re currently laying the second NSC pipeline along that stretch with a view that as soon as we finish, we’ll isolate that portion and replace it with steel material,” he says.
The worst case scenario is that if the rains do not come early enough and the NSC is not completed on time, the Gaborone dam will be dry by March or April.
And, as Mudanga puts it, there will be a catastrophic situation in the Greater Gaborone Area, which covers the area from Mochudi to Lobatse.
The message has filtered through and the people hum in unison to the last hymn as the prayer session comes to an end and the crowd disperses, giving way to another bony cow which staggers through the rocks for what could possibly be its last drink.