The Ghosts of Kubu Island.


Kubu Island. Credit:

It’s not true that the group at the bar never talk about ghosts. They do. But when the subject gets raised, they’ll lift their glasses in a silent salute to Spook Visagie, the man at the center of one of the legends Kubu Island. He ‘visited’ the place in in 1965.

Long, long ago, the Makgadikgadi salt pan was a lake. A large one. It collected the waters of the Okavango, Chobe and Zambezi rivers, formed an inland sea and drained into the Orange river. Then the earth’s crust moved, diverting the obj148geo280pg13p28Chobe and the Zambezi eastwards on their present course. Before that, the Makgadikgadi sea provided the early Phoenicians with the route to Zimbabwe and the gold deposits they mined there.  The ‘island’ of Kubu (‘kubu’ meaning : ‘hippopotamus’) used to be a harbour for the fleet of ships carrying the precious cargo. Even today, the remnants of the ruins (resembling the building methods at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins) can still be found on the island. Of course, these ruins are much younger and not a true reflection of the early Phoenicians’ endeavour, but later efforts in the 15th century, most probably by the local population at the time.

Be that as it may, there is a story the locals whisper about around the late-night fires.

breekyster 2010 052aSpook – known by his real name of Koos at the time – happened to be on one of his camping trips back then, when the fanbelt of his vehicle broke. People will later say that it was meant to be, but at the time Koos didn’t think so. With the radiator unable to regulate the engine’s temperature, he was stranded in the overwhelming heat of the salt pans. He could have died there. Some say he did…

The remains of the car – like Spook – is still there if you’re brave enough to go looking for it.

According to the police report, Koos was found about ten days afterwards. One has to be flexible in this. The band of Bushmen who found him, spoke only their original !Kung language – understanding them relied heavily on gestures and sound, rather than interpreting the almost-impossible click-language they used. Gertruida has read the report:

…apparently Mister Koos Visagie was in a severely dehydrated state when he was found. The San people carried him to their shelter and revived him. That’s when they recognised his face.

According to their legends, a white, bearded man once ruled over Kubu Island. It was, they say, a long time ago, when the plains were filled with water and fish abounded. This man, they said, would return every (hundred? thousand?) years to herald a new period of plenty. As far as can be ascertained, the San people communicated this with Mr Visagie. It is unclear whether he understood what they told him.

Apparently Mr Visagie was taken to Kubu Island, where he ‘met the ancestors’ How this happened, was also not fully explained, but a ‘sacred fire’ was made and certain herbs and bushes were involved.  During this process or ceremony, Mr Visagie was said to have started talking in a strange voice with strange words. The San people had never heard anything like it before. Mr Visagie seemed to be conversing with an invisible person(s) in an animated way. 

When the clan woke up the next day, Mr Visagie was gone. No further information was forthcoming from the group. Although an extensive search was carried out afterwards, Mr Visagie remains on the Missing Person’s List.

Comment:  The Investigating Officer’s opinion is that Mr Visagie must have suffered mental damage due to his ordeal. If – as it seems to be the case – he had wandered off into the salt pans, the chances are that his remains will only be found by accident one day. It is suggested that the contents of this file be made known to the nomadic peoples in the area.


Now it is important to mention a certain Gavin Lamont. As a prospector of note, he had been exploring an area in the Tuli Block, many hundreds of kilometers to the east of Orapa.. While camping on the banks of the Limpopo River, as strange man arrived on foot. ‘Strange’, because he was dressed in a flowing white coat, a white suit and hat, and wore polished shoes. He did not at all look like a weary traveller.

After inviting the man to stay for the  night, they sat down to a dinner of Impala steaks and wine. Much to Lamont’s surprise, after the meal (which the man hadn’t touched at all) the visitor then went on to tell him that the search of diamonds in Botswana would yield rich rewards. But, he added, the really significant finds would occur at the southern end of the Makgadikgadi salt plains. While Lamont went to his tent to fetch a map, the man simply disappeared. kubu

In 1966, the year after Spook’s disappearance, the fabulously rich deposits at Letlhakane was discovered by Lamont, changing the history of Botswana.

Gertruida says they can stop looking for Spook. He went – according to her – to ‘another dimension’. The Bushmen were right: he heralded another ‘period of plenty’. Boggel always laughs at her when she says this, reminding her that most of the stories they tell in Boggel’s Place tend to be very flexible about the truth.

Still, you never know, do you…?


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