The bodies of 31 Cyclone Idai victims who were swept away by the March 2019 floods and buried in Mozambique have been exhumed and will be accorded Stated-assisted burials in the country.
The remains are currently at Chimoio Provincial Hospital awaiting DNA tests to be carried out by the National University of Science and Technology (NUST)’s Applied Genetic Testing Centre in collaboration with the AiBST Laboratory.
Soon after the 2019 disaster, the victims were buried in the Dombe, Espungabeira, Sussundenga and Moussorize districts of Mozambique.
Local Government and Public Works Minister, Dr July Moyo this week presented to Cabinet a report on the exhumation of the Cyclone Idai victims.
The report reads: “The nation is being informed that following a Cabinet decision to exhume bodies of victims of Cyclone Idai that were swept to Mozambique through the Rusitu River, a team comprising pathologists, the Zimbabwe Republic Police forensic officials, the Zimbabwe National Army and the Civil Registry was set up to carry out the exhumations.
“The team, assisted by the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Mozambique, Ambassador Victor Matematanda, held consultations with Mozambican officials and traditional leadership before carrying out a total of 31 exhumations.
“An arrangement was made with Chimoio Provincial Hospital for the storage of the remains of the victims. DNA tests will be carried out in Zimbabwe by the National University of Science and Technology’s Applied Genetic Testing Centre in collaboration with the AiBST Laboratory. The two laboratories have already collected reference samples from the families who lost their loved ones during the disaster.”
Government has also made arrangements for the remains to ferried back to Zimbabwe for reburial.
Minister Moyo said: “The nation is further advised that Cabinet resolved as for the remains to be transported back to Zimbabwe for reburial.
Minister Moyo said: “The nation is further advised that Cabinet resolved as follows:
(a) to declare the missing persons dead so as to facilitate acquisition of the relevant documentation at the Civil Registry Department and the subsequent registration of the deceased persons’ estates;
(b) that all positively identified remains be conveyed to Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital in order to reduce costs for the grieving families;
(c) that a mopping-up exercise be undertaken to identify burial sites and conduct exhumations on the other side of the Rusitu River; and
(d) that State-assisted burials be provided to the bereaved families.”
In an interview with The Manica Post on Wednesday, Secretary For Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Mr Edgars Seenza said the progress made in bringing closure to the Cyclone Idai issue is commendable.
“We have been pushing for this for the past three years. We are grateful for the support we have been receiving from Government and our brothers and sisters in Mozambique to bring closure for the families of the Cyclone Idai victims.
“We are waiting for the DNA results and once this is done, we will advise the nation on the burial arrangements,” said Mr Seenza.
Zimbabwe Chiefs Council’s Manicaland Chapter chairman, Chief Makumbe said as the custodians of the country’s culture, they are in full support of the victims’ reburial.
“As Africans, we believe that the spirit of a dead person will not rest until they are reunited with their living family members. A lot of families who lost their relatives have been pushing for the closure of the issue.
“Once the reburials are done, I am sure they will have some sort of peace knowing where their loved ones are buried,” said Chief Makumbe.
“The spirit of the dead will also be brought back home to help in guiding the living. We seconded Chief Ngorima, who lost several of his subjects during the devastating cyclone, to work with the exhumers.
“From the report we got from him, they did not encounter any hurdles in doing this.
“We will lead the reburial process and ensure that all associated traditional rites are conducted,” he said.
Chief Makumbe added: “We thank our Mozambican counterparts for burying the remains of the victims on their land and their co-operation in identifying the graves.
“We also thank Government for supporting the exhumation process.”
Cyclone Idai caused severe flooding and extensive damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Malawi.
ln Chipinge, Chimanimani and part of Masvingo province, about 270 000 people experienced the direct effects of the cyclone.
Close to 350 Zimbabweans lost their lives. Quite a number of bodies were swept into neighbouring areas of Mozambique, and were subsequently buried in that nation.
— Manica Post