By Anna Chibamu
CLUMSY planning by government officials forced the largest mobile telecommunications operator, Econet to pull out of a multi-million dollar project meant to construct 500 houses for homeless Cyclone Idai victims.
The tropical storm, which affected parts of Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces in March last year, left a trail of a disaster leaving hundreds dead and thousands in need of shelter and aid.
The most affected districts were Chimanimani and Chipinge where some villagers are still living in tents after their homes were swept away.
However, Econet had come to the assistance of the affected communities with a proposal to construct 500 houses for some of the families.
But the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) confirmed this week that the mobile telecommunications giant had pulled out of the project due to administrative bungling by government officials, leaving thousands of people living in tents and other inhabitable places.
Giving oral evidence to the Budget and Finance Parliamentary Portfolio Committee this week, CPU director Nathan Nkomo confirmed Econet pulled out of the project at the last minute.
He told MPs he suspected Econet reasons for pulling out were due to delays in planning and implementation of the project by the government.
“Econet had partnered government on this 500 housing units project but pulled out at the last minute,” Nkomo said.
Efforts to get a comment from Econet were fruitless as the company’s public relations executive Fungai Mandiveyi’s mobile phone went unanswered several times.
However, Nkomo said the construction of the houses would continue.
“As government we opted to continue. We will finally relocate those affected by Cyclone Idai disaster. Government has released $20 million and we have procured everything needed for the project,” he said.
“There is also a UNDP-China partnership where building material has been purchased. 224 houses are expected to be constructed so that we move the affected to descent accommodation as well as decongesting the tents.”