Cyclone Idai: Ordinary people emerge heroes

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AFTER venting out their anger and frustration at the government’s lethargic initial response to the devastating Cyclone Idai, which hit the Eastern Highlands on Friday night killing more than 100 people mostly in Chimanimani and Chipinge, Zimbabweans from all walks of life quickly came together to offer relief and support to victims.

Candid Comment,Owen Gagare
ogagare@zimind.co.zw

It was a refreshing and rare show of unity in a deeply divided and polarised nation. With President Emmerson Mnangagwa having left Zimbabwe for the United Arab Emirates as the Cyclone hit Zimbabwe and the Civil Protection Unit seemingly unprepared for the disaster, the victims initially turned to each other for encouragement and support.

As highlighted during the burial of St Charles Lwanga High School student Munashe Jena on Tuesday, the students spent three days with their colleagues’ corpses in the classroom, waiting for the governme nt rescue teams to take them to safety. Jena, another student and a security guard, succumbed to Cyclone Idai-induced injuries after a rock fall hit the school.

After seeing that there was no rescue mission in sight almost three days after the disaster, the students embarked on a journey to Skyline for safety. They were joined by their boarding master, teachers and some villagers who also assisted in making makeshift coffins to ferry the corpses to safety.

By the grace of God, they successfully navigated the treacherous rain-soaked terrain and made it to Skyline where they were eventually assisted. The students—whose plight was trending on social media together with videos of the devastating effects of the cyclone—spurred the nation to act in one accord. Ordinary Zimbabweans through churches, social groups and clubs made contributions in cash or kind to assist victims, and this was complemented by the efforts of the international community, UN agencies, corporates, humanitarian organisations and non-governmental organisations. The power of social media in mobilising people for a worthy cause was demonstrated beyond doubt. Some companies crowd funded to aid the relief effort using their EcoCash Biller codes or corporate accounts while many others collected goods at their premises. The number of people and organised groups sourcing for funds on various platforms was overwhelming such that it will be difficult to quantify the amount of humanitarian assistance received or ascertain whether everything collected will reach the intended beneficiaries. While the mobilisation efforts are commendable, there is also need to ensure that in future, such endeavours are well-coordinated and carried out by credible organisations and individuals to avoid leakages.

Zimbabweans, though, deserve praise for standing with their countrymen at a time of need. Their response galvanised the government into action. Certainly, among the heroes of this tragedy are ordinary people like the boarding master of Charles Lwanga High School and many volunteers who joined the search-and-rescue mission.

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