Cyclone Idai Disaster: Chimanimani villagers resist relocation to safety

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CYCLONE Idai might have left a trail of destruction and loss of human lives in the undulating terrain of Chimanimani but affected villagers believe that this is a passing natural disaster that does not necessitate relocating to a different place.

The entire eastern highlands range that stretches from Nyanga to Chimanimani has undulating terrain, with villagers residing on mountain slopes and foothills.

Ironically, the eastern highlands and Chimanimani in particular, receives average to above average rainfall making it more productive for agricultural purposes.

Thus Chimanimani district, especially in areas such as Rusitu Valley and Nyanga, are major producers of bananas, pineapples, potatoes and other crops.

The destruction of life and property by Cyclone Idai ignited the debate on the nation’s disaster preparedness and more importantly the rationale of citizens continuing to live in areas that are prone to disasters.

The debate on whether or not is necessary to relocate or not is reminiscent of the flooding prone yet fertile lands of Muzarabani where people have resisted relocating and always move back after the floods have subsided with ‘fear of the unknown’ taking its toll, that is, what will happen to them if they leave their roots behind.

Chipo Dhliwayo, who lost two children during Cyclone Idai, said they had lived at their homestead well before the country’s independence in Nyamusundu village near Biriiri Mission right on the mountain foot.

She said the destruction by Cyclone Idai is the least they expected given the time they have been at their homestead.

“The destruction by Cyclone Idai is the least we expected given the time we have been at our homestead since way back. I was married while my husband’s family was staying there.

“Their forefathers used to stay there but they have not experienced what we went through,” she said.

Solomon Sengedza (43) of Muusha village in Chimanimani, whose crops were swept away during the cyclone, said this is just a passing disaster.

“I think this is a natural disaster that can attack any other place as it did to us. Yes, we were badly affected because of the nature of the area that we stay because it is prone to mudslides but I think this is something that does not happen now and again.

“I lost everything in the fields. I had maize and groundnuts that were almost reaching the harvesting stage. It is sad that I no longer have anything and I do not know how I will survive in the next three or four months,” he said. Marry Musona of Skyline area in Chimanimani said being moved is not really necessary but early warning systems and Government preparedness before disasters strike should be the priority.

“I think disasters are everywhere even though we all know that there are areas that are prone to disasters. In case of Chimanimani I think this is a disaster that has come and gone. What is of primary importance is that we have sound early warning systems and Government preparedness before disasters strike should be the priority,” she said.

— ManicaPost


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