Traumatised Chimanimani villagers seek relocation 

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Kenneth Matimaire in Chimanimani

It was just after 9PM when disaster struck the Gambire family of Nyamusundu village near Skyline in Chimanimani. Witness Gambire (33) was sleeping with his wife and three daughters when their hut collapsed.

His eldest daughter (nine years) died instantly.

He rushed to move his family to the kitchen hut but it immediately collapsed killing his last born baby.

Though Gambire survived with his wife and middle daughter, he no longer feels safe to reside at the family compound.

“We are currently living at my brother’s homestead in tents that were donated. Its no longer safe to sleep inside the houses even the one with minor damages because you keep thinking that it’s going to collapse too when rains come. In fact, its nolonger safe to reside here (mountainous terrain), we want to be moved,” he said.

His sentiments are widely shared across the length and breadth of Chimanimani’s hardest hit areas.

Thousands of tramautised dwellers in Ngangu, Machongwe, Kopa and Skyline have listed their names for relocation to the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) through their traditional leadership.

Ngangu residents who spoke to Business Times said Chimanimani Rural District Council (RDC) must find alternative but safer places for resettlement.

“It was a nightmare. I don’t want me or my children to go through it again. We appeal to the authorities to resettle us in a much safer environment because we are living in fear here (Ngangu). We keep asking ourselves what if it happens again,” said Marian Makaya.

Makaya and her four minor children survived the deadly cyclone by seeking refuge on the rooftop of their house.

Ngangu is a small residential area located nearby Chimanimani town and stretches beneath the valley of the mountainous terrain.

Heavy floods moved mudslides, rocks and trees from the apex of surrounding mountains down to where the houses are located, which resulted in massive loss of life and destruction of property.

Another Ngangu resident Felistus Madzana said their once remarkable area of residency has become a symbol of death.

Madzana said no day passes without minors stumbling on a corpse while playing, making the area unfit for children or human inhabitancy.

“Last week my child had gone out to play with others and he came back screaming after discovering a dead woman with a baby strapped on her back. I can’t continue to raise my kids in such an environment,” said Madzana.

Tonderai Chinyai of Machongwe said continuing to reside along river shores will be catastrophic.

“All along I though it’s strategic to reside nearby streams but Cyclone Idai has taught me otherwise. I was spared not to make the same mistake. I’m already thinking of relocating to my uncles in Nyanyadzi,” Chinyai.

Chinyai’s house was destroyed when floods from two rivers, Mutambagware and Nyahode converged and destroyed a nearby bridge before spilling to nearby shops and houses, killing people in the process.

However, while many seek to be relocated, the exercise appears to be a long term issue for the government.

Business Times further established that government is still undecided on what to prioritise between low and high lying area as they were both equally affected.

Chimanimani RDC chairperson Rueben Majee said they have since passed a resolution to relocate the villagers but CPU Manicaland chairperson Edgar Seenza said “we will deal with that issue (relocation) later.”

Minister of State for Manicaland Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba said government is still planning.

“There is indeed need of relocation and reconstruction of the communities. It’s a process that takes a bit of some planning. And engagement of experts in that area. So that people don’t remain in those areas that are low lying. I think it’s up to government to plan and see where they can relocate the victims,” said Gwaradzimba.

She added that most of the affected structures where either unapproved or made of pole and dagga, which made them very vulnerable to heavy rains.

Gwaradzimba said the reconstruction exercise requires the rebuilding of standard houses but concerns have been raised whether the rural folk will be able to foot the costs.