Latest News Editor's Choice


Opinion / Columnist

Sanctions and jecha affect Zimbabwe's response to natural disasters

22 Mar 2019 at 06:30hrs | Views
I rise to give a statement on the condition of Cyclone Idai which has affected people in Manicaland and many other provinces and to state what Government is undertaking in order to relieve the pressure that the people in Manicaland as well as in other provinces are having and to elicit Hon Members of this august House to assist in this endeavour as you have implored them to do Hon. Speaker.

We have witnessed a very severe calamity caused by this cyclone and it has affected people, mostly in Manicaland but more especially centred in Chimanimani and in particular, Chimanimani East Constituency which is the constituency headed by Hon Joshua Sacco.

I want to say right from the beginning that if anybody did not value the membership and the tasks that Members of Parliament have, they need to see how we have benefited from the knowledge of the Hon Member of Chimanimani East; his contact with his people in his constituency and the members that are resident in that constituency where it has become impossible to access through roads by air because of the weather.  

The people who are in dire need of assistance - are in three centres; there is the Chimanimani Urban Centre which has a place called Ngangu. This is the most devastated area in Chimanimani East.

Then there is Kopa which is near Rusitu near the Mozambican border; that area has been heavily affected by the cyclone. Lastly, there is Chikukwa area and to give Members of Parliament an understanding of the difficulty that all of us, Government, co-operating partners, the private sector that is engaged with us and everybody who is helping us has been to reach those three epicentres from Mutare because the bridges have been taken and there is total blockade of reaching that area.

 If you travel from Mutare going to Chimanimani, we have two main routes which are tarred – the first one is, when you get to Wengezi, you turn left and there is a bridge called Mhandarume that has been washed away and part of the bridge has been taken away.

Then the next bridge is at Umvumvumvu that also has been washed away and it is impassible. You go to the next bridge which is Biriri that also is no longer there - it has been washed away. You then get to Muusha, another bridge there has been taken out until you reach Skyline where there is a convergence of a road which comes from Chipinge and the one which is going through the bridges which I have mentioned.

That place has a bridge at Skyline and near a mountain that has been washed out and it causes it more difficult because to pass through those two routes, one has to carve out a road in the mountain.  

The next bridge is all the way to either Ngangu or Chimanimani Urban or to Chikwukwa, or to Kopa through Rusitu - all of them have been washed away. So, we then tried another route which goes from Wengezi to Tanganda and Birchenough Bridge to a place called Rutengeni on our way to Chipinge. That place is what you would call in Shona, as deketa (wetland).

The actual tarred road is so risky that even a human being is too heavy to be on it and so many buses were rescued or taken out having sunk. When we tried dozers, some of the dozers were actually sinking. But, that is the place that we then concentrated on to make sure that we can open a pass way and the army core of engineers working with the engineers from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and engineers from well-wishers who are either contractors or companies in the area were able to bring enough equipment so that there is a bypass.

That bypass, they had to dig very deep in order to make sure that the water which was gushing out from the mountain is rechannelled.  So, we have been able to pass through that avenue to a place called Kopa which is on your way to Chipinge and you turn left and go to the Wattle Company.

As soon as you leave that Wattle Company or within that Wattle Company, there is another bridge which is still holding but our fear is that right now, this afternoon dozers were now starting to move from Rutengeni to aim at Skyline but that bridge is also very precarious.

Even when travelling with ordinary cars, we had to go through it one by one for fear that it might give in.  So, the engineers are now seized with the issue of first going to fill it up so that it can hold the part that has remained that will give us access to Skyline.

So, that is the difficulty that we are faced with. Last night, we were informed and it has been confirmed by the Wattle Company people that just after the Wattle Company, there is another gravel road which we are testing or our people are testing right now to see whether we can take that route which can take us to Kopa and Rusitu and back to Ngangu and Chimanimani urban area.

The other route we are testing will take us from again 2km out of Chipinge and turn left with a view to go to Kopa. We think that Kopa now is a more severely afflicted area because either by air or by road, we have not been able to get there. Communication since Friday was working and we were getting reports from every ward and from most of the villagers both here in Harare at our centre which is manned 24 hours since Friday and at our communication centre in Mutare. But, since two days ago, because electricity power lines from Chipangayi were disrupted, the 132Kv line which is at Chipangayi went out of order.

Therefore, the line from Chipangayi to Chipinge, the 33Kv line was also not working but I am glad to say that was restored by yesterday (March 19).  That having been restored, we are now left with the 11Kv lines that go to Chimanimani as well as to all the industries, companies, dairy industries, schools in the area, high schools, hospitals, clinics – all those have been disrupted because of that power line which is not working. Because of that, ZETDC is working very hard throughout the night to try to restore the power lines so that we can open up the clinics.  

While I am saying this, all of us are now aware of the casualties which you have mentioned Mr Speaker. The number of deaths that you have mentioned, 98 and I cannot right now definitively say that is the total because the total is a moving figure.

We started at 23, we moved to 31, immediately we moved to 42, we were at 64, sometime at 72, last night we were at 89, this morning we were talking about the 96 and we can confirm the 98 that we are talking about.  

How is this coming about?

We are fortunate that once the army reached skyline and there was no other mode of transport to cover the rest of the mileage to Chimanimani, Gangu or Chikukwa, the army decided to go on foot. A contingency of army engineers as well as private army soldiers were able to reach Gangu two days ago.

What they found there obviously is horrific. We were able to bury, with their assistance, the 45 bodies that were in Chimanimani in schools or homes but obviously having no electricity, we had to use traditional methods of preserving, jecha and other methods. We have been able to bury the 45 at Gangu that were there.  The terrible one is what we are now witnessing at Copper. At some point we were told we were missing 147 people.

Now we are hearing that some of the bodies of those who are missing are floating in the river and we are being told by villagers in Mozambique as well as Copper area, even at our command office today as I walked in after coming from Manicaland, people were calling to say more bodies are floating.

The army is on its way now and we believe they will be able to rescue those who are at Copper and Rusitu. Rusitu itself has become a big pool because of the waters that are there and in the same area near Skyline, you know that there is St Charles Lwanga Secondary School which is run by the Roman Catholic Church. When the children were eating on Friday and the mudslides came, 50 of them were trapped in the dining room.

Two of the children perished in there, plus a worker at that school. For two days, we could not rescue the children and take those who were deceased to a safe place. So you can imagine the children together with dead bodies for two days.

We were able to evacuate the bodies because the mortuary at Chipinge was now working. At the same time, yesterday the army was able to get all the 175 children out. It is an all boys' boarding school with the girls being day scholars. We were able to meet all the boys that survived the ordeal at Wattle Company and they were being assisted by their headmaster together with the school authorities from Chipinge.

They had their first hot meal yesterday and are now in the hands of the Catholics in Mutare.  I thought I should start with this just to give you the extent of the damage that is there but I can say that Government has done all it can. Certainly, the army has braved the weather as it is raining, foggy and yesterday we were able to have the first flights of three helicopters. Two from air force and one private from Mars which was hired by the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company which had 13 people marooned on a hill that they could not get out of for two days.

They were rescued yesterday (March 19) but the company did not just rescue its own people. They ended up rescuing a number of the villagers who had been taken to safety. The company which hired Mars has put that Mars helicopter to our disposal and it is continuing to evacuate people. We had hoped, having been told that the cyclone was disintegrating or in any case had moved towards Malawi that we could go in there by helicopter and be able to assist.

Yes, yesterday the helicopter was able to uplift some of the people who are in dire need of medical treatment and we hope that today, that exercise can continue. The situation there requires us to move food, shelter, medicines and sanitary ware to the area, and all the things that are needed by people who have already been displaced but this is very difficult because of the circumstances that I have alluded to.

We have moved everything close to where we think once we open a place we can go to and food is stationed at Chipinge and some at Skyline. We have said if need be, working with the army they will carry some of the food on foot in order to go and alleviate our people who are in dire need.

So, we are continuing with this exercise and as we all know, after the President made his appeal yesterday (March 19), and now that he is on his way to Manicaland, we think we can speed up the rescue operation over there.  

The Government has given $50 million and the Ministry of Finance has availed $50 million in order to kick-start the work that is going on. From that $50 million, more than $30 million will be used to repair bridges because access to the area is the most fundamental issue that we are faced with.

The rest is spread to Ministries of Health, Local Government because of the Civil Protection Unit, and the other ministries which also give relief including the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company because we now urgently need them to restore electricity in the area.  

We think that Government is doing all it can but I must mention that private companies such as Greenfuels, Masimba Contractors and Breachman World Contractors and a lot of others have given us fuel, others clothes. Our cooperating partners, UNICEF right from the beginning, we took truck loads of non-food items that we believe would give relief.

All this work is in Mutare or Chipinge. Now, because it is difficult to get access to Mutambara Hospital which is the major hospital and it is difficult to have access to Chipinge Hospital, the only way we can do it is by airlifting people.

That is the pressure that we are having. We are quite confident that our people, Zimbabweans, including Members of Parliament, will take this and share the burden with the people who have been affected.

While I have spent more time on Chimanimani and Chipinge, we are not losing sight of the fact that the people of Buhera, Masvingo, Zaka, Gutu, Nyanga and Mutasa have all been affected and we are giving warnings to the people in Mutoko because the epicenter has moved to Malawi – they have been affected.

In Chikomba, they have been affected and the cyclone dumped a lot of rain in Mvuma and we think that those people will be affected.

So we call upon Hon. Members of Parliament again, our people sometime, we transmit through radio and television, I have listened to more radio than I have done in a long time. They kept on telling people what to do and how to do it.

It is quite amazing how much the radio stations were emphasizing to our people but sometimes word of mouth is better than us listening to the radio or television. So we urge Members of Parliament to go all out to make sure that people move away from risky areas.  

Before the cyclone, we had put messages out there to say, please those in mountainous areas, particularly Chimanimani and Chipinge, remember there was an earthquake not too long ago and that earthquake must have shaken and loosened the earth such that when this cyclone came, it was very easy for it to destroy. All over the roads, you can see debris, stones and trees that have gone down and because the houses are under these big trees, people have been swept away.

So, I cannot over emphasise Mr. Speaker, to my colleagues, Members of Parliament, civil society and every Zimbabwean that we need to have a word of mouth to our people so that they take precautions when they are warned about these calamities.  The Management Committee covered the length and breadth of the affected areas. We had written communication and it was disseminated through the structures.

Even some of the Hon. Members did the dissemination. All I am asking is that in future, once we hear about such warnings there are certain Members of Parliament that come from these areas, some from Mutare, Chipinge and various areas where houses were swept away.

As Members of Parliament, we should encourage our people to take heed of warnings, vacate low lying areas and move to high ground. On the issue of helicopters, it is true; the Air force of Zimbabwe has helicopters. The other Hon. Member talked about sanctions – some of the helicopters do not have spare parts.

You may not like it but the effects of sanctions are real and things have now reached to such an extent. As a country, we should go ahead and assist with the development of our country.  

In terms of what efforts were made by the Government; it did not start now. It is true that we have experienced cyclones before; there was once an earthquake which shook a lot of places.  When I am talking about the army, I am saying before the army reached those places, nobody could move. There was no structure that could make those children to come out of that place.

Therefore, the assistance of the army, which army we met when they brought the children was essential for that rescue operation. That should be clear to anybody who is willing to go and check on the ground not to listen to hearsay or social media which might lie about those things.

We told all the people not only through radio, television or newspapers but through the structures that are in place and responsible for disaster management. The structures go up to village heads. We have over 28 000 village heads. NGOs that are also operating in the area are also informed because they also constitute part of the civil protection organisation at provincial level.

At district level, all the NGOs that are in there at the ministries and the traditional leadership structures including the chiefs and village heads are also informed. That information is disseminated right to the grassroots. As Zimbabweans, we must know that when our people are informed including some Members of Parliament, they do not listen. They do not vacate these dangerous places.

That is the earnest truth. We can cry about it but we have to go and mobilise our people so that they take action in future when there is need. On helicopter assistance, we have a standing rule that is applied by our SADC forces or aid agencies. When there is such a disaster, they inform each other.

That is why you will see assistance coming from South Africa, Tanzania or Zambia; we request in order to alleviate problems but if you see what is happening in Mozambique which was more devastated by us, they have already moved in and we are no exception. We do not shy away from asking for help because we also help Malawi, Zambia or Namibia when we are not faced with a calamity.

Those working situations are in place and I am sure you will know that our Minister of Foreign Affairs has contacted his counterparts but even in South Africa, they have to prioritise on where to go.

The South Africans also prioritise the destination after they have been informed. The entire SADC region has been alerted that we require assistance not only of material and other things but including transportation networks.  

There are certain things that will come unprepared even if you are prepared. It is risk and calamity. It is risk management. There is no one who is able to eliminate all the risks alone such that people will not die. You cannot find people who are prepared on this planet or even in developed countries.

That is why even in the most developed countries, you still hear that people die. Even in America, they have had calamities such as hurricanes over and over again but they still die. We are not condoning anybody who does not prepare well. We are saying to our structures all the time - these structures at national or provincial level must be prepared.

-----
July Moyo is the Minister of Local Government and National Housing. He delivered this abridged statement in the Parliament of Zimbabwe this week.

Shipping vehicles from UK to Zimbabwe for less
Source - July Moyo
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Subscribe

Email: