KENNETH NYANGANI IN CHIMANIMANI
THE majority of villagers in Chimanimani district in Manicaland province have resisted evacuation to safer places, as tropical storm Chalane started battering the area yesterday, marked by heavy rains which left rivers flooded.
Government moved swiftly to make provisions to secure people from the region, but during a visit to the district yesterday, the Zimbabwe Independent realised that most villagers were opting to remain at their homes and risk the wrath of the tempest, fearing they would lose their belongings and food reserves.
Last year Cyclone Idai ravaged the area, killing scores of people and leaving hundreds homeless.
Families which were set to be evacuated were told they should only carry blankets and medication and had to leave behind their household goods, livestock and food reserves.
In interviews with the Independent, villagers said they were left with many questions, as the government had not yet come up with a plan on how they would be compensated if they lost their belongings to thieves.
Tendai Ngorima, under Chief Ngorima in Chimanimani, said he was not going to the evacuation centre.
“I am not going to leave my home. I was told to carry only my blankets to an evacuation centre and leave behind my household property, livestock and food reserves. These things are part of my life,” he said.
“If I lose my property, the government is not going to compensate me,” he said.
Another villager, Martha Marimo from Muusha Village, was adamant she would not go to an evacuation centre.
“I am not going anywhere leaving my household property. This is my life; at least the government should have come up with a plan on how it would compensate us if we lost our property and livestock to thieves who might take advantage of our absence,” she said.
About 30 people had been evacuated to Mutambara High School last night, with the majority coming from Ngangu Township in Chimanimani which was ripped apart by Cyclone Idai last year.
When the Independent arrived at the evacuation centre, the few evictees the were being given soap and hand sanitisers and receiving education on the prevention of Covid-19
Our crew was however barred from speaking to the evacuated people by state security agents manning the premises.
“At the moment we are not allowing the press. This issue has the attention of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and so we cannot compromise on that. There might be some things people might say which would end up in the press,” the security officer said.
However a villager who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were being provided breakfast, lunch and supper.
“At the moment we can’t complain about food. I came here Tuesday and we ate breakfast, lunch and supper,” he said
“I am from Ngangu. I left my livestock and everything in Ngangu,” he said.
Another villager said they shared rooms in pairs or sometimes in threes.
“We are only three in our room and we’re taking precautionary measures against Covid-19,” he said.
Manicaland Provincial Development Coordinator and Civil Protection Unit chairperson Edgar Seenza said human life was important.
“We are keen to save human life first; human life is important to us, those people we are evacuating are leaving their property and livestock behind,” he said
“Those who are going to be evacuated should carry their blankets as we are still mobilising for blankets. We have few blankets and food,” he said.
“We are urging those with chronic illness to replenish their medication as they might not have a chance to do so,” he added.
The government has said it would not forcibly evacuate the villagers in the seven districts of Manicaland province.
There are however hopeful the impact of the tropical storm would not be as severe as that of Idai because it is weaker and has significantly less rainfall.
Whereas Cyclone Idai packed winds of up to 270km per hour and rains amounting to 600mm in 24hours, Chalane has so far recorded a maximum wind speed of 112km per hour and 150mm rainfall in 24hours.