By Leopold Munhende
TWO years is a long time, especially in Zimbabwe, what with its stubborn economic crisis, political turmoil and a host of other mounting challenges people face daily.
However, for most victims of the 2019 Cyclone Idai, a tropical storm that hit some parts of Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces, the affected people continue to feel its effects two years later.
Most of the victims especially in Chimanimani are up to this day living in dilapidated donated tents, survive on food donations, have no source of income.
The hope of over 270 000 villagers affected by the storm in Chimanimani is that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government will someday keep its promise and assist them in rebuilding their lives to pre-2019 times.
Most of the people’s homes were washed away, food and livestock lost when the storm hit the area exactly two years on this date March 2019.
“I was part of the response team that went to Chimanimani a week after they were hit by Cyclone Idai, the situation was devastating,” said Pylaia Nyamakura a volunteer then.
“I felt scared and even after I returned I was a bit depressed. It was hard interacting with mothers that had lost their children, fathers who had lost their homes and belongings. It was unbearable for them.
“What they needed most was shelter strong enough to protect them and the little they had been left with. I really hoped by now all of them would be in decent shelters.”
However, two years later, Nyamakura’s hopes are not yet a reality.
A family of six shares a single tent, and most of them torn due to harsh weather conditions.
The situation has been worsened as the victims have had to endure heavy rains that pounded Zimbabwe this season.
“Right now we are just idle, what we thought would have happened and the promises we had been given, have not been fulfilled and we have lost hope,” Norman Baradzo told NewZimbabwe.com
“Most are people are still living in tents. Imagine staying in a tent every day for the past two years. We are really getting worried if this will be our life forever.
“We always appreciate donors who come with food but accommodation is key, some of these tents are now torn and because of weather elements they are either falling or easily tearing apart.
“Those at Kopa, families are staying in one tent. The lucky ones were given extra tents by relatives who have since left.”
Baradzo added: “President Mnangagwa promised us farming land but it is now two years and what we only hear are rumours. After he (Mnangagwa) promised us land to rebuild our lives and homes no-one came back with any official communication. All we hear are rumours that land has been set aside for us at Junction-Paidamoyo and Bumba but that was over a year ago.”
On 14 March 2019, Cyclone Idai swept across Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, and by 15 March, it had killed over 1 300 people.
Hundreds of bodies remain missing after they were washed away in existing and newly formed streams that fateful night.
Many in Zimbabwe had their relatives buried in Mozambique after villagers in the neighbouring country reported cases of hordes of floating dead bodies in their rivers.
However, on the bright side, Baradzo told NewZimbabwe.com he managed to sow a field of corn and is expecting a bumper harvest much like the rest of Zimbabwean farmers.
Said Baradzo: “I planted my own field of corn which will be ripe for harvest soon. I am sure it will go a long way in bettering my situation and that of my family.”
However, when contacted for comment, government spokesperson said the government had not abandoned and was assisting Cyclone Idai victims rebuild their lives and houses had been constructed and beneficiaries will move in soon.
“The first phase of construction of houses is near completion with 40 houses out of 55 awaiting to be roofed by the end of this month. The next phase, which is phase three, the Ministry of Local Government is constructing 50 houses,” he said.
“These houses are also going to be handed over to beneficiaries as soon as they are complete. The government in partnership with IMO (International Migration Organisation) is also constructing 120 prefabricated houses for people who are housed in tents.
“The prefabricated structures are going to be temporarily used by people who are staying in tents in Chimanimani. Since Cyclone Idai did not affect Chimanimani district only but also Chipinge, IOM is also building prefabricated structures in rural areas.”
Mangwana added; “In terms of bridge construction, the government managed to construct Nyahode Bridge, which linked Mutsvangwa and Rusitu. The construction of the bridge was important because most of the economic activities at Kopa area had been affected when the bridge was washed away.
“Roads linking Chimanimani and Chipinge were constructed and this assisted Cyclone Idai victims in terms of travelling between the two districts. The government assisted Charles Luwanga Secondary School which was damaged by Cyclone Idai by allocating a new site for it to build a new boarding school and work is in progress.”