HARARE - Zimbabwe has deployed soldiers to flood-hit Masvingo and other south-eastern districts to stop “rampant looting” of foodstuffs, and goodies that have been donated by the State, and other well-wishers, it emerged yesterday.
The development comes in the wake of a disaster triggered by the bursting or fall of a portion of the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam in the arid low-lying area.
Ignatious Chombo, the Local Government minister, told Senate yesterday that the deployment was a response to the corruption and looting associated with the aid distribution in the flood-hit areas.
“We have deployed the military in the area to guard against the items being looted and not reaching the intended victims, and the soldiers are working together with provincial minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) to ensure that there is no corruption there,” he said.
More than 2 200 families in the Tokwe-Mukorsi basin have been displaced by floods which swept Masvingo two weeks ago following the partial collapse of the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam wall.
An estimated 60 000 families are at risk of being affected in the low-lying areas of the arid Masvingo Province.
Relief workers and donor partners have joined the State in providing shelter, foodstuffs and blankets to displaced villagers.
Chombo told the Senate that thieves and some of the relief workers were looting the donated goods, some which were found in mountains.
“I also received information from minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi that the goods are not reaching the intended families and I decided to invite soldiers to look after the goods together with CPU to keep the records of the goods received,”said Chombo.
The cash-hit Zanu PF government is scouring for $20 million badly needed for resettlement and food aid for the affected communities, especially those that resided in the Tokwe-Mukorsi basin.
More than 2 200 families were displaced when their homesteads submerged while property and livestock worth thousands of dollars was swept away.
In some cases, crocodiles that were forced offshore following the floods in the environs, are said to be devouring livestock such as goats and cattle.
Legislators complained that they received reports that donated goods were being looted and diverted to private homes by some people in the relief teams.
MDC Senator Morgan Komichi expressed concern at the possibility of corruption in Tokwe Mukorsi on blankets, clothes, food, tents, and medicines amongst many items needed by the flood victims.
“We are expressing solidarity with people who are facing floods. However there is a lot of corruption and we fear that some goods will be hidden in mountains. We ask the responsible minister to ensure we will not have such cases occurring,” said Komichi.
He was supported by Zanu PF Senator for Masvingo Shuvai Mahofa, who said she had received reports of looting and corruption in the area.
“There are reports that some things are being hidden in mountains while on their way to Mwenezi where families are being resettled from the floods. We want to see order and transparency in the distribution of the donations,” said Mahofa.
Chombo said the relocation of people living in Tokwe-Mukorsi area was to be done in three phases starting from October 2013 and ending in October 2015.
So far movement of 32 000 families has been hampered by lack of funds.
He said the problem was compounded by the people living in Tokwe-Mukorsi, who were given money by government to relocate but refused to move to safe areas.
Chombo said some were even running away from being evacuated.