By Prince Tongogara
Pictures of marooned villagers in Muzarabani, collapsed houses in Epworth and flooded rivers that halted traffic along the Harare-Chirundu highway last week exposed the Zimbabwe government’s lack of capacity and woeful disaster management planning.
Stationary vehicles stretching for kilometers at flooded bridges along the busy Harare Chirundu highway made a stark reminder how the country is vulnerable when a major disaster strikes. The highway is a major trade route linking Zimbabwe to the north and South Africa. It is an important economic artery that not only sustains Zimbabwe but the Sadc region too. Any disruptions on the highway affect regional trade and economies.
Mining companies in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) depend on the highway for importing their capital equipment and exporting ores through the port of Durban in South Africa.
The flash floods left a trail of disaster that includes but not limited to more than 800 families left homeless, hundreds of hectares of crop field swept away and roads made impassable by potholes and flooded bridges.
Citizens were not adequately informed about the weather reports that predicted the incessant rains that culminated in flashfloods especially in low lying areas like Muzarabani and lower Guruve.
The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) only came on to the scene to rescue marooned people with Red Cross supplying emergence shelter and food packs to affected families.
Failure to warn people to move to higher ground needlessly increased the material losses suffered. Movables and livestock could have been moved to safer higher grounds.
It remains shocking how the government has failed to learn from last year’s Chingwizi flooding. More than 3 000 families were left homeless after the Tokwe-Mukosi dam basin flooded.
The incident exposed how the government that planned to construct a large dam failed to move the people before the project stared. Many analysts then said the Tokwe-Mukosi flooding was a man-made disaster waiting to happen but the government chose to lookaside.
The disaster is of similar magnitude to Cyclone Eline that left thousands homeless, bridges swept away and crops and livestock destroyed. No effort then like now was made to warn the people before disaster struck.
The situation is made dire when the leadership seems insensitive to the plight of the victims. President Robert Mugabe has continued holidaying in the Far East while the country is being devastated by floods. Opposition political parties have labeled such conduct as insensitive to the plight of citizens.
It therefore remains that the country still needs an efficient and effective disaster early warning system and disaster management plan. Without these in place, Zimbabwe remains at the mercy of having many people suffer due to these natural disasters.