Victoria Falls, named after Queen Victoria of Britain by David Livingstone, a Scottish adventurer and missionary who was reputedly the first European to observe the falls on November 16, 1855, is the world’s largest waterfall, with a height of 108 meters (354 feet) and a breadth of 1,708 meters.
Why is the Falls known as Mosi-oa-Tunya?
In 1855, Scottish explorer Livingstone named the falls after his reigning queen, but the locals at the time, the Kalolo-Lozi people, had their own name for the falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya. According to photojournalists Marcus and Kate Westberg, its meaning, “the smoke that thunders,” is not surprising given the plumes of mist that surround the heritage site as it roars over.
They wrote that after hearing stories about the falls, Livingstone decided to visit them by paddling down the Zambezi in a dugout canoe and landing on a small island at the falls’ lip. The island where he first saw Victoria Falls would be named for him. According to Marcus and Kate Westberg, the Scottish explorer later wrote of the falls in his diary: “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
Long before Livingstone witnessed the magnificent falls, the Tonga and Makalolo peoples lived there, according to Marcus and Kate Westberg. The two photojournalists said that locals may be seen on the outskirts of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, living in mud-and-thatch homes and ministering to maize crops.
In 2013, President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwean party called for the renaming of Victoria Falls, stating that the falls’ colonial name was illogical. They stated at the time that institutions with colonial titles should be converted to indigenous names. “David Livingstone was not the first person to see the Victoria Falls; they (the falls) must be rebranded Mosi-Oa-Tunya,” said Jabulani Sibanda, one of the leaders of an ex-fighters for Zimbabwe’s independence association.
Others, however, expressed concern that changing the name of the falls would have a negative impact on tourism. Some name the world’s greatest sheet of cascading water Victoria Falls, while others call it Mosi-Oa-Tunya. Whatever it is termed, there are concerns that the site will be destroyed. In 2017, there were allegations of significant truck congestion at the Victoria Falls border post in Livingstone, which could shorten the facility’s lifespan.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated the falls as a World Heritage Site, giving them formal recognition and protection. However, the UN has not done enough to protect them from being threatened. According to UNESCO, the property is currently protected under the National Heritage Conservation Act (1998) and the Zambia Wildlife Act in Zambia, and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Act Cap. 20. 14 of 2008 (revised) in Zimbabwe.