by Tendai Ruben Mbofana
There is a popular local adage, “Mhosva hairovi” – which, loosely translated means that no crime goes unanswerable – that I keep hearing in my mind, as I watch, with amazement, the seemingly swift response and preparedness by the government of Zimbabwe, ahead of Tropical Depression Chalane, which is headed towards certain districts in the country, most particularly Chimanimani, Nyanga, and other such areas.
The past week or so, have been characterized by government departments, in cooperation and coordination with several stakeholders, putting in place measures to minimize the impact of this potentially disastrous and destructive weather formation – with the availing of transport for the evacuation of those in possible danger to safer areas, and establishment of response mechanisms at various appropriate spots.
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What kept eating up my innards, as all this activity was taking place, was, “Why were similar precautionary and preemptive measures never put in place, in 2018, when news reports were already awash of the impending more devastating and catastrophic Cyclone Idai – which, had already wrecked phenomenal havoc, and killed multitudes of people in the countries it had passed through, such as Mozambique?
“Could lives not have been saved, had authorities in Zimbabwe, done in 2018, what they are doing this time around? Did all of us not know, from numerous weather reports and warnings (days in advance) the immense strength of Cyclone Idai, and the possible path it would take in this country?”
As I listened to Zimbabwe minister of information Monica Mutsvangwa briefing the nation yesterday, 30 December, on tropical depression Chalane – with the way she articulated the various forms this weather phenomenon had been taking since its formation a week or so ago, the times it had reached the Mozambique coast, when it reached the Zimbabwe eastern regions, and its expected strength, and possible damage – I could not help wondering why the government did not take similar information seriously ahead of the much more deadly Cyclone Idai in 2018… information that anyone who followed international news reports, and social media weather posts, was well aware of.
Most of us were already in panic mode, as we followed the advancing Cyclone Idai – watching the horrid devastation it inflicted on such countries as Mozambique – coupled with credible international weather services’ warnings of the path it would follow in Zimbabwe, the same Chimanimani, Nyanga, and surrounding regions, and the potential fatal mayhem.
The traumatizing images of the aftermath of the worst natural disaster to ever hit Zimbabwe, were too much too bear – as video footage showed homes being washed away like houses of cards, whilst people were swept away to far away places as Mozambique, and others buried alive, most of them never to be seen again.
Who can ever get over the painful and heart-rending testimonies of survivors, who tearfully chronicled the calamity that befell them and their families, how their homes were wrecked to the ground in literally seconds, and how they helplessly watched their loved ones washed away by the irresistible force of nature (crying out for help that would not come), and how they themselves managed to survive?
Nearly two years later, and faced with the potential of a similar catastrophe, these people are still living in tents – as the new homes they were promised have never materialized – one can not help questioning, “Had the authorities responded in the same fashion they are doing this time around in the face of Tropical Depression Chalane, would all those lives needlessly lost, due to Cyclone Idai, not have been spared – considering that, we had the same wealth of information we possess today”?
Why did the government of Zimbabwe not take the warnings seriously – which, anyone with a smartphone already had, literally in their hands? Was this not a clear case of gross and I forgivable negligence, which those in authority need to be held responsible?
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic – and the subsequent lockdown, mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, and sanitizing of hands – we have all witnessed how the government can be over-zeolous in its ‘protection of lives’, characterized by the brutal enforcement of the law, resulting in several human rights abuses against those perceived to have violated any regulations.
If the Zimbabwe administration was so concerned about the ‘protection of lives’, why did they flagrantly ignore the Cyclone Idai warnings? Why did they cold-heartedly sit back and fold their arms, whilst a monster – that could vanquish lives and livelihoods in a matter of seconds – sped down towards our country?
As much as I appreciate the apparently swift response to Tropical Depression Chalane – although, the nation will need to first hear from the people in the affected areas – a good deed today, can never whitewash a crime committed yesterday by the same government.
“Mhosva hairovi”, and the frivolous and lackluster actions of the government in 2018 need to be accounted for. Who will be held responsible for that mother, father, son, daughter, or baby strapped on its mother’s back, who were washed away by the vicious waters, or crushed by gigantic boulders that tumbled from nearby mountains, or buried alive by fierce land and mudslides?
There can never be any denying it, but – had the government done what they appear to be doing today – many many many lives would have been saved…and, all those grieving people in Chimanimani, Nyanga, and surrounding regions – who have been sentenced to lifelong trauma and hell – would still be with their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and watched their babies growing up.
Only had the government of Zimbabwe truly cared about them, and seriously wanted to ‘protect lives’ – then, again, what can anyone expect from a regime that can deliberately and merciless butcher thousands of innocent people, solely out of vile hatred, the retainment of power, and preservation of its ill-gotten plundered wealth.