Cyclone Idai: Leadership failure epitomised

EDITOR — As one who hails from Manicaland Province, one who has relatives who died, were injured and some unaccounted for, at least for now, I have found it very difficult to take in the level of betrayal by our leadership of the day. Yes, it is a leadership failure, right across.

For two weeks, we knew that a cyclone was brewing in the Mozambican channel, we were told when it was going to start in Beira and when it was going to land in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. 

We were told of the intensity of  Cyclone Idai and the Met Department was spot on. In view of all the information that was coming from our Met Department, we were found at sea. Therein lies my disappointment.

While it does not help much to be complaining, we need, as a collective, to draw lessons from this experience. 
There are a number of them, issues to do with strategic thinking, leadership and green governance issues. The situation that befell Manicaland and Masvingo provinces is not one to politick about. If anything, it is the time for all those that claim to be national leaders to come together, walk across the political isle and hold hands in search for solutions.

Both the central government and local government failed us. The central government did not capacitate the Department of Civil Protection (DCP). The local government did not sensitise people through local authorities. Where was our minister of Local government? Where was our provincial administrator? Where was our district administrator? Where were the CEOs of the affected districts? Where were the elected councillors in RDCs and the affected towns? Where were our MPs? 

Where were our traditional leaders, the village heads, headman and chiefs, all who are drawing allowances from government? Where were the leaders of the civil society in Zimbabwe? And above all, where were the leaders of the different political parties who only in July last year were saying they wanted to lead us? 
Where do we locate the leaders of the two major political parties Zanu PF and MDC Alliance? Right across, all these leaders missed an opportunity to show leadership and avert the disaster. The DCP was supposed to be leading in terms of disaster management protocols but they were at sea as well.

The people of Ngangu, Ndakopa, Machongwe, Kurwaisimba, Rusitu, Hlabiso, etc did not deserve to die. They were supposed to be evacuated to safer areas. We should be talking of homes that were destroyed not people who lost their lives unnecessarily. 

I raised the issue of green governance failure in my introductory statement. When we embarked on the inevitable but chaotic land reform programme, people invaded plantations in Chimanimani, Vumba, etc. They destroyed the trees whose roots were holding the soils together and in the process exposed the hill slopes to serious erosion and possible landslides.

Areas around Skyline, Machongwe, Jopa in Chipinge come to mind. If you go to Buhera today, where we used to have Watekama Dam (ward 11, Buhera North), it is now a road, Mupeza Dam (ward 23, Buhera Central), only 25 percent of it is left, Mafodya river (Buhera central, ward 23) has its river bed infested with gardens from its source right up to its mouth releasing water into Save river. 

The sitting councillor, one village head, the agriculture teacher, etc all have gardens that are right on the river bed. It is no-longer a case of stream-bank cultivation but river bed cultivation. We are chocking our rivers while Ema officials continue to draw salaries every month of the year. 

These are some examples of green governance issues where we have been found at sea and we need to right those wrongs yesterday otherwise we are building a bridge to nowhere.
Climate change and global warming are real, never mind what Donald Trump thinks or says. What is also clear is that Tropical cyclones are increasing in intensity with every passing year. 

Cyclone Idai was worse than Cyclone Eline. The next cyclone is likely to be worse than Idai, and therefore we need to prepare ourselves in terms of preparedness, disaster management and post disaster interventions to support victims. 

Next time, the army and police special units should move in to evacuate people from vulnerable areas to temporary shelters. We also need to have a clear policy on the housing structures that we build as well as the areas that we reside. 

Ndakopa Growth Point is vulnerable and susceptible to future flooding given that it was built in a valley and at the confluence of two rivers, Nyahode and Rusitu. We need a clear settlement policy. 

I submit that, we should have been battling with rebuilding and not burying dead bodies, excavating dead bodies as well as looking for missing people if we had shown leadership right across. 


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