|Meet Kariba’s ‘Crocodile Dundee’|
|Saturday, 15 January 2011 18:21|
ABRAHAM MUKONO is not a name that rings a bell at national level, be it in politics, sport or any other sphere.
But the 33-year-old is certainly a hero in his hometown of Kariba where his claim to fame is being an undisputed crocodile fighter.
Mr Mukono, who is popularly known in his circles as tsvu because of his light complexion, is a celebrated fishmonger who has managed to stave off five attacks by vicious crocodiles on Lake Kariba, his main area of operation.
His skills have also benefited fellow fishmongers, a good number of whom he has rescued from the jaws of the ferocious reptiles.
His daring exploits in the crocodile-infested dam are certainly reminiscent of the epic 1986 Australian movie, Crocodile Dundee, in which a character named Mick tactfully kills a crocodile to save his girlfriend, Sue.
The only difference this time is he is not saving Sue, but his source of livelihood.
“There is nothing mysterious about how I always emerge a winner in a fight where very few survive,” he said, proudly displaying the “scars of war” in different parts of his body.
“One should have knowledge about the creature so as to know its weaknesses.”
Mr Mukono has filed August 25, 2010 as the day one of his epic battles with the reptiles took place.
“It was a sunny morning and my colleagues and I went out to fish in Kariba Dam,” he recalls.
“Anticipating a good outing, I threw the fishing line into the water.
“As I pulled it out, a bulky figure followed.”
It was a familiar figure. The crocodile did not take long to identify itself as it immediately reared its head and charged towards him.
“I did not panic at all. Before this dangerous encounter, I had fought other gruelling battles,” he said.
“I took my fishing rod and beat it. But undeterred, it caught my right hand, pulling me into the water.
“Normally, it uses its tail to destabilise its prey; this encounter was no different.
“It used its front legs to hold my body.”
What followed was a battle for survival. The fishmonger had emerged victorious from previous near-death situations.
Whether he would defeat the reptile in its territory once again was still to be determined.
“I looked for a soft spot on its head, but it clasped my hand even more firmly. To be honest, I thought the end had come for me.
“Different images quickly flashed through my mind. I saw my children — Charlene, aged six years old, and Gift, three.”
The images seemed to give him fighting strength.
“I kept looking for a weak spot, as the crocodile tried to drown me. Suddenly, the opportunity arose when it popped its head out of the water to breathe,” he said.
“This was the moment. I pocked my fingers into its nostrils and it inadvertently let go of me after water got into its nostrils.
“I promptly swam to the shore with the crocodile in hot pursuit. Probably sensing a futile hunting expedition, it later grabbed my bag from the shore and made off with my scales, knives and mobile phone which were in the bag.”
Mr Mukono had survived once again. Memories of such fights still linger in his mind.
On April 19, 2010 he was in yet another dangerous encounter with the beast.
The episode sent shivers down the spines of many residents in the town after rumours filtered through that he had been killed.
He had just cast his nets into the dam when a crocodile suddenly clasped his right leg.
“I told my friend who was with me that I had been caught,” he recalls.
“I did not panic, which is the most important thing to do under such circumstances.
“If you panic or try to resist, it will spin in the water, breaking the part clasped.”
The fishmonger was held in a vice-like grip. His friends could not assist. In fact, they ran for dear life.
“When the crocodile tried to drag me away, I fell. It rolled with me three times and I obliged.
“I wrestled with it in the water, as its arms dug deeper into my body.
“The secret here is not to cry because that will result in water getting into one’s mouth.”
He led the crocodile to believe he was dead as he maintained astonishing composure.
It eventually gave up the fight.
“I kept on dancing to its tune for about 30 minutes until I got hold of some grass close to the shore and dragged myself out of the water.
“Already, some people had spread reports that I had been killed.”
Mr Mukono has also saved several lives. He once rescued a fellow resident, using fishing nets to scare the reptile away.
“In another incident, I helped (one) Moses Muzwaki. He was hit in the thigh and I had to use a log to fend off the attack.
“I have been in fishing for a long time. So, I know all the tactics used to scare off crocodiles.”
Medical records show that Mr Mukono was hospitalised three times after battling with a reptile.
He has bruises on his thighs and legs — all indelible marks of his bravery on the shores of Kariba.
Yet, he vows to stick to fishing, which is his only means of survival.
A resident in the town, Mr Simon Magombedze, said tales of his exploits are legion.
“On several occasions we thought that tsvu had died. People here adore him. He is our hero,” he said.
The fishmonger attributes his triumphs to the power of God.
“It is not because I am cunning that I survive; it is by the power of God. I worship him everyday and ask for more days.”
Mr Mukono has been living in Kariba since 1998 and earns a living out of fishing which generates him about US$15 per day.
He said he always took the risk because the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority charges astronomical fees.
“For river usage we are made to pay US$5 and the fees for the boat are US$3.
“Fishing from the shore costs US$2. We are residents of Kariba; we should benefit from the river.”