MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai and his convoy slowly drove down the Mavhuradonha mountain range into the Zambezi escarpment, the picturesque scenery slowly devouring us as we descended into the belly of this vast, desolate valley.
We entered amid the customary searing heat of the valley of Mahuwe in Mbire, inspired and spurred on only by the chastity of the mission of Morgan Tsvangirai — the mission to assist the victims of the floods that had ravaged this valley and wrecked people’s livelihoods.
The convoy snaked its way through a dusty rugged road to Mushumbi Pools, and then turned right for about an hour towards Chikafa using what was at best a rough, wet, muddy and slippery pathway.
At Nyambudzi School, there was what was supposed to be a major Zanu PF event with less than 10 people being presided over by Mashonaland Central provincial Affairs Minister Martin Dinha. But at Nyambudzi village, President Tsvangirai was greeted by thousands of people who included traditional leaders and ordinary people in this desolate community whose livelihoods had been severely wrecked by floods.
The MDC leader first went around the village and saw for himself fields that had been ripped apart by floods; he saw destroyed homes and shattered lives that stood testimony to the audacity of hope. The villagers told tales of heavy rains they had not seen in their lifetime; they told us how rivers such as the nearby Hunyani river had burst at the seams and ripped through their homes and fields leaving them clutching at nothing but hope … and hope alone.
Some non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross Society had chipped in but were dismally failing to cope with the magnitude of this human catastrophe that even the elderly in the community have not seen since they were born.
Upon hearing of Tsvangirai’s impending visit, the government, that had not assisted since disaster struck, suddenly sent one truck with some few food packs that were grossly inadequate considering the number of the distressed families.
A village head in Nyambudzi, Mr Mudzongachiso, told the MDC leader that the community was failing to cope with the magnitude of the catastrophe and was in urgent need of basics such as food and shelter.
The villagers complained about discrimination in the distribution of goodies, especially by government officials who were politicizing this catastrophe and assisting people on partisan lines. Only the previous day, the villagers said, a colonel from the army had threatened them with death if they accepted whatever assistance Tsvangirai would bring to the community.Advertisement
The MDC leader brought blankets, tents and food packs for over 100 families. He gave some of the goodies to some elderly women and left the bulk of the packs with the traditional leaders for onward distribution. He told the traditional leaders to distribute the food packs, tents and clothes fairly and without political discrimination. This was a natural disaster, he said, and politics did not come into it in any way.
“This disaster was not selective on whether one was MDC or Zanu PF. No one should politicize any assistance brought here, which assistance should be given to everyone regardless of political affiliation.
“I know the traditional leaders here are going to do a good job to ensure that no one is discriminated against,” President Tsvangirai said, to thunderous applause from the villagers and the more than 25 traditional leaders who attended the ceremony.
The people’s leader urged the youth not to be used in engaging in acts of political violence but to concentrate instead on bread and butter issues such as the legitimate demand for jobs.
From Nyambudzi village, President Tsvangirai visited the homes of victims of political violence, including the home of MDC activist Misheck Simbi, whose house as destroyed by Zanu PF thugs in the violence of 2008. The family escaped death by a whisker but pledged to continue with their unstinting faith in the MDC as the only change agent that would bring a new Zimbabwe.
As we left Nyambudzi, I noted that the people’s morale was low; that indeed their spirits were as low and desolate as the valley itself! Their crops were destroyed and the economic strain of the country was palpable in this escarpment; the poverty so human with the rugged fields sending their own loud message of imminent starvation!
The crest-fallen and ashen faces of the villagers told their own story of penury, especially in the wake of this disaster where once again, the so-called Civil Protection Unit was exposed!
Towards nightfall, President Tsvangirai and his aides drove out of this shattered community, the MDC leader having played his part as a patriotic Zimbabwean to bring back the smiles by assisting fellow countrymen in distress.
But as we drove up the Mavhuradonha Mountain, we knew very well that we were leaving a people with a broken spirit; the evidence of debilitating disaster and a fallen economy so palpable in the valley.
But there is so much spin nowadays to deny that anything has fallen; even the economy. Yes, the economy has not just fallen; it has tripped over the poorly laid carpet of misgovernance, policy inconsistency and downright incompetence on the part of the party in government!
Luke Tamborinyoka doubles as the Presidential spokesperson and Director of Information in the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai.