Like a great white wedge jammed into a steep valley on the Zambesi river, the giant Cabora-Bassa hydro-electric dam is fast approaching completion.
Like a great white wedge jammed into a steep valley on the Zambesi river, the giant Cabora-Bassa hydro-electric dam is fast approaching completion. Test transmissions of its first electricity will be made through the 85-mile grid system to a substation near Pretoria, South Africa, in May.
Cabora-Bassa is perhaps the biggest single civil engineering work to be undertaken on the African continent, but its presence has been the subject of continual political argument and of armed clashes.
At the outset, it was seen as an extension of Portuguese colonisation of Mozambique - a classic case of an imperial power investing in a colony for its own profit. The Portuguese argued that Cabora-Bassa was aimed at opening up a part of Africa to new wealth, enabling it to exploit rich mineral deposits in an otherwise remote section of the continent.
Today, with the huge dam nearly finished and with the waters of the Zambesi forming a vast lake behind its 550-foot (170-metres) wall, Cabora-Bassa is emerging into a changed political scene.
The Frelimo guerrillas who once harassed the construction site and shot it out with Portuguese troops, are now part of the new regime which will take over in Mozambique, and although Portuguese soldiers still patrol the Cabora-Bassa, the fighting has stopped.
In this climate, the likelihood is that the dam - once described by Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda as a crime against humanity -- will be able to do the job for which it was built - namely, to supply electricity to a great segment of Africa and to generate the power for new mineral exploration.
And, while great numbers of white Portuguese who worked on the dam are preparing to leave Mozembique for good once the dam is complete, Frelimo leaders are busy visiting the site explaining that there will be no violent changes when the political hand-over is made.
When it is running at full capacity, Cabora-Bassa will supply 3 1/2 million kilowatts of electric power a year. Regular supplies are expected to flow to South Africa in September. Meanwhile, the new lake formed behind the dam will furnish irrigation over a vast area of land.
So, despite all the argument and bloodshed, it may be that the timing of Cabora-Bassa was right. For it will be finished just in time to accommodate the political changes which have came about around its massive structure.