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Two tripoints, not a quadripoint exist at Kazungula on Zambezi River

A screenshot of the claim shared on Facebook 5 mins read

Claim: An image shared on Facebook claims Kazungula quadripoint on the Zambezi River as the meeting point for four countries.

The current legal consensus is that two tripoints and not a quadripoint exist at the Zambezi River. The claim is partially false.

Full Text

On 15 August 2021, an image asserting that The Kazungula quadripoint was where four countries meet and greet at the Zambezi river, made rounds on Facebook. The image received 14 comments and 25 shares. Days later, it spread on different accounts on the social media platform.

The Kazungula quadripoint is commonly believed to be where four African countries, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, meet at the eastern end of the Caprivi Strip on Zambezi river and has been dubbed the “four corners of Africa.” 

The Kazungula crossing in 2006 with the borders marked out on the territory.Photo Credit: Brian McMorrow / Julieta39 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

A quadripoint, the rarest of global boundaries, is a geographical point at which the borders of four territories meet. The term “quadripoint” originated from the U.S. Department of State and describes the “four corners,” where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet; the only point in the United States shared by four states.

Although some international and many subnational quadripoints exist, none involve four countries. The most common border confluence is a tripoint where three countries meet physically at a single point; there are more than 170 tripoints in the world and over 50 tripoints in Africa.

The only other quadripoint with four nations existed in late 1960 and early 1961, in central Africa. For eight short months, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and a British territory called Northern Cameroons converged in the middle of Lake Chad, near the floating island of Kaalom; Nigeria took over Northern Cameroons, and the quadripoint ceased to exist.

Kazungula Quadripoint

Kazungula is a small border town in Zambia, lying on the north bank of the Zambezi River. The Zambezi River rising in the Kalene hills in north-western Zambia  is the fourth largest river basin in Africa and flows across an area of nearly 1.6 million square kilometers)  draining into the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. En-route to the Indian Ocean, the Zambezi flows through: Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi.

Kazungula is home to the Kazungula pontoon ferry that cuts across the 400 metre wide Zambezi river to the identically-named village of Kazungula in Botswana; It is one of the largest ferries in south-central Africa with a capacity of 70 tonnes. The Kazungula ferry serves the international road traffic of three countries directly (Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana) and of three more indirectly (Namibia, South Africa, and DR Congo.)

One of the two pontoon ferries that service the Kazungula ferry crossing between Botswana and Zambia.

Photo Credit: Kazungula Ferry Mirko Raner via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The borders around the Kazungula area have always generated interest over the years. In 1970, for instance, when Zambia and Botswana established the ferry surface, South Africa (which controlled Namibia) and  Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia) protested the move. The two countries claimed that all four countries came together in a quadripoint, and two countries could not have their own border crossings without the permission of the other two. The Rhodesian military went so far as to sink the ferry. 

Botswana and Zambia have persistently refuted the idea of the quadripoint. In contrast, Zimbabwe has advocated its existence, even questioning whether Botswana & Zambia even share a common boundary at all or meet only at the single common point, the quadripoint. 

In August 2007, when the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry, there was a fightback from the Zimbabwean government. According to the then Transport Minister, Obert Mpofu, there was no direct border between Botswana and Zambia, and Zimbabwe did not need a new crossing; the Victoria Falls bridge existed nearby. The project was, however, launched in September 2014 ,Namibia and Zimbabwe later joined the consortium in 2018. The bridge was officially opened on 10 May 2021. 

The 923 metre long Kazungula Bridge crossing over the Zambezi River between Zambia and Botswana/Photo Credit: Government of Zimbabwe

Before the construction of the bridge, most Botswana–Zambia trade was moved through Zimbabwe and was taxed by the government. Conversely, the Kazungula Bridge allows free trade between Zambia and Botswana. 

Double Tripoint not a Quadripoint

During various meetings involving heads of state and officials from all four states around the Kazungula area, around the time of negotiations for the Kazungula bridge, it was apparently agreed that there exists a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana. Botswana, therefore only has 150 meters (490 ft) of river frontage on the Zambezi, being sandwiched on the south bank between the extreme tip of Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and Zimbabwe. The boundary is shown in the African Development Fund project map, MapAfrica, an interactive platform that maps the geographic locations of AfDB’s investments in Africa.

The stretch, though only underwater, between Botswana and Zambia, ultimately forms a boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe. As a result, the area features a unique “double tripoint,” and not a quadripoint. Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia come together at a westerly point in the river; Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana come together at the easterly point. 

Satellite image of the two tripoint on the Zambezi River captured by the Operational Land Imager on Lansat 8.

Conclusion

There’s no way to be sure of the existence of the quadripoint unless all four nations agree to a boundary survey. The current legal consensus is that two tripoints and not a quadripoint exist at the Zambezi River. The claim is partially false.

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