Zim must be better prepared for natural disasters

HARARE - As soon as news came that the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam was in trouble and the wall was reportedly bursting, Zimbabwe’s two predictable knee-jerk responses were immediately proffered: first the begging bowl and then the denials.

“The EU must send helicopters,” was one of the first reports we heard while the experts were calculating how much money they needed to move people and save lives from the flood waters.

Then came the strenuous denials that there was actually any danger of the dam wall breaking despite frightening video images on the Internet showing water pouring out of the middle of the dam wall and stones slipping to the depths below.

Within a few days we were seeing horrific images on ZBC TV of only the thatched roofs of houses left above the level of flood water in the area.

Families were camped out on rocks with their soaked possessions strewn around them and ox-drawn scotch carts were negotiating muddy swamps carrying people’s precious goods.

It wasn’t long before the government’s begging bowl had a price attached to it and it was a strangely precise figure, namely $19 694 093.

Funny how you read the figure and query what the ninety three dollars is for but not the nineteen million.
At a news conference in Harare, Home Affairs minister Ignatious Chombo put forward the government’s official appeal for $19,69 million to the international community.

He said the cash was needed for complementing government efforts with provision of shelter, food and non-food items like safe water and other basic needs for the affected people.

Also included in the cash requirement was the phrase: ‘logistical support for search, rescue, evacuation and delivery of relief’.

It is embarrassing that Zimbabwe runs to the world with the begging bowl at every opportunity.

We have what is thought to be the largest alluvial diamond field in the world at Marange and yet we can’t even raise $19,6 million to save our own people from the flood waters around Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam.

Something is very wrong in a country when we beg the world for money while the CEO’s and senior executives of government companies are earning massive salaries ranging from $40 – 230 thousand a month.
It wouldn’t take many of these huge earners at parastatals to foot the entire $19,6 million bill apparently needed to finance the Tokwe-Mukorsi rescue and relocation requirements.

It would need donations from even less big earners if we recovered the huge amounts lost in the last week’s fraud revelations alone: The Air Zim insurance scandal (7 million), the Rural Electrification Agency loans scandal (2,5 million); the Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust (1,1 million) or the GMB car scandal (250 thousand).

But worst of all is why anyone, at home or in the international community, would trust that their donation would ever even get to the people affected by flooding in Tokwe-Mukorsi.

This follows the disgusting news that soldiers have been deployed to Masvingo to protect donated goods because they were being stolen.

In what he described as “rampant looting,” Minister Chombo said that thieves and relief workers were looting donated goods with items being hidden in the mountains and others being delivered to private homes.

The very people entrusted with assisting flood victims were actually helping themselves to the donations. How shameful is this?

Charity begins at home and we must arrest the thieves, looters and guilty relief workers and at least try and help ourselves before we go crying to the world.

Social responsibility starts at home but so does accountability.

A Zimbabwean economist keeps saying; Zimbabwe first.

Comments (1)

who is EU? To start with a disaster is a situation of disruption on a sufficient scale to justify external intervention. Have we done enough at local level to an extent that we say we have failed?Disaster management starts from the most remote examples of teaching swimming at primary school,having rapoko fields every season etc how far have we and the government gone in the preparation and appreciation of disasters?What are the roles of the Civil Protection Unit and how many times have the CPU been to the people to educate the people on the preparedness to disasters.The CPU has a mandate to even influence the educational curriculum for students to appreciate disasters even from the tender age.Disasters associated with mining is a preserve of the Ministry of mines and Zimbos should enact laws and follow up on responsible ministries.Preparedness-preparedness,CPU pull up your socks.

tassi - 22 February 2014

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