OPPOSITION MDC leader Nelson Chamisa is reportedly planning to visit the Cyclone Idai-ravaged Manicaland province this week for a first-hand assessment of the disaster and appreciate the needs of the affected families.
“The president is praying for the people in Manicaland and his team is preparing for him to visit affected areas, while through party organs we are also co-ordinating efforts to give a helping hand. We are well aware that this has nothing to do with politics, but the people of Zimbabwe,” said an MDC insider.
Chamisa, through his spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda, expressed empathy and called on well-wishers to assist the families.
“The State has an obligation to support citizens in need. Let us mobilise everything necessary to ensure the safety and comfort of citizens. The latest tragedy is an important reminder of the necessity of the State’s disaster preparedness … Lives have been lost. We empathise with all who have suffered from the natural catastrophe. We appeal to all well-wishers to support our people in need,” he said.
MDC President Chamisa is a trained pastor with the Apostolic Faith Mission church.
MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume called out President Mnangagwa, saying his trip to the United Arab Emirites (UAE) was irresponsible and showed his lack of care for the ordinary people.
“Doctors are struggling to assist patients with absolutely no support from government. A cyclone is wreaking havoc in the eastern parts of the country. Old problems such as fuel shortages persist, yet Mnangagwa flies out once more. The MDC condemns this kind of behaviour; such opulence of travelling in luxury on the back of taxpayers in the face of crisis and poverty is a clear sign of showing no respect and care for the citizen,” he said in a statement.
Mafume joined hundreds of citizens on social media, who said Mnangagwa should not have flown to the UAE, especially given that the country was aware of the cyclone before he left.
“What kind of person leaves behind dying children, sinking homes, washed away bridges and goes on a dish-sampling mission in the Middle East?”
But Information ministry secretary Ndabaningi Mangwana disputed the opposition claims, saying Mnangagwa’s trip was not a vacation, but critical engagement that would bring lots of benefits to the country.
“The President is not on some working exotic holiday. The purpose of his journey is for the benefit of this country. He has deployed resources to deal with the disaster from the cyclone, unless you wanted him to personally drive the choppers. His presence here would not stop the rains,” Mangwana said.
Civil Society groups rapped the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) for being ill-prepared for the disaster although it had received prior warnings from the Meteorogical Services Department.
Human rights activist Farai Maguwu said the government should have evacuated people living in high risk areas prior to the disaster.
“There was a warning by the Meteorological Services Department days before this devastating cyclone. There was no single disaster preparedness to save the lives of the people. They did not care and the government could have equipped the Civil Protection Unit,” he said.
Meanwhile, several organisations, among them Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) and Econet have started mobilising donations for the cyclone victims.
AMH are publishers of NewsDay, The Standard, Zimbabwe Independent, Southern Eye and also proprietors of online radio and television station, Heart&Soul.