Tendai Mugabe / Felex Share, Harare Bureau
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa will today lead a high-powered delegation to Manicaland province to supervise rescue and relief efforts, as Government steps up efforts to assist people affected by Cyclone Idai that has so far left 98 people dead and displaced thousands.
The President will be accompanied by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and will be joined by several Government ministers already in Manicaland where they have been involved in the rescue and relief efforts.
President Mnangagwa had to cut short his official visit to the United Arab Emirates to attend to the disaster, which has left a trail of destruction to infrastructure and property.
Hundreds of people are still to be accounted for in the affected communities.
In his address to the nation following the unfortunate disaster last night, President Mnangagwa said Government would do everything in its capacity to help the affected people.
“No effort or resources will be spared to reach all those in distress,” he said. “Any extra life lost is one too many. I shall be leaving for Manicaland tomorrow (today) to acquaint myself with, and personally lend weight to rescue efforts already underway.
“Government is doing all it can to reach all lives that can still be saved and to bring succour to families and communities fast running out of necessities, including food, medicines and shelter. Units of our Defence Forces have now accessed Chimanimani town where they have begun working with different arms of Government already active on the ground.
“The blocked roads have to be reopened so food, safe water and medicines reach people who have congregated around hotels, churches, schools, community centres and other makeshift safe gathering points. This is an effort which is now underway.”
President Mnangagwa said he had since directed that food be drawn from the national strategic reserves and distributed to the affected communities once access roads were cleared.
“Already, lots of relief is now building up in Mutare waiting for access roads to be cleared,” he said.
“I have also directed our Department of Civil Protection to help with meeting burial expenses for those we have lost. In view of the broken infrastructure and delays in reaching such families, burials must proceed without further delay.
“The assistance that Government has pledged will still reach the affected families even after these burials.”
President Mnangagwa said efforts should be committed to rebuilding the damaged infrastructure.
He said the nation had learnt lessons from the disaster which called for broad national housing policy that takes safety issues into consideration.
“Once we have stabilised the situation, we must immediately embark on the onerous task of repairing broken lives and communities,” said President Mnangagwa.
“There are homes to be rebuilt, schools to be rebuilt or repaired. There are physical and social infrastructures to be replaced or repaired. Above all, there are broken livelihoods which have to be recreated and resuscitated.
“The disaster which has befallen us must spur us to better site our homes, and of course to use more durable building materials for safer, better homes for our people. This disaster must get us think long and hard about a broad national housing policy which takes safety issues into consideration.
“There is no guarantee that this fickle act of nature will not visit us yet again and do so with equal if not worse devastation and hence the more reason we must draw lasting lessons from this mishap in order to plan and build a more secure and durable future for our families and communities.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said yesterday that Vice President Chiwenga would be part of the delegation to co-ordinate the team of ministers already on the ground
He said army engineers were creating detours to make roads passable in Chimanimani for aid to reach the affected people.
“Tomorrow, VP Chiwenga will be in Manicaland, particularly in Mutare coordinating the Ministers that are on the ground,” said Mr Mangwana. “Army engineers have managed to create a detour where we had a patch of the road which was impassable.
“Now, it means that we can get some aid through because the convoy that we had was stuck in this place. The convoy was full of aid, medication, food and other supplies and provisions.”
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo is leading the ministerial delegation already in the disaster area comprising Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister, who is also Acting Defence Minister, Perrance Shiri, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza and Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza.
Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa has sent a condolence message to the families of people who lost their relatives following Cyclone Idai which hit the eastern parts of the country over the weekend.
In his address to the nation last night, President Mnangagwa said it was disheartening that more people were still missing and yet to be accounted for.
“As I address you tonight, our nation, alongside sister nations in our southern African region, has been buffeted by a disastrous cyclone which has hit districts in three of our provinces, principally and gravely the districts of Chimanimani and Chipinge in Manicaland,” he said.
“On behalf of our grieving nation, Government and indeed on my own behalf, I wish to express my deep, heartfelt condolences and profound sympathies to all the bereaved families which have lost their loved ones.
“I, too, share affected families’ ever-mounting anxieties and distress in respect of all those still missing, and whose hopes for possible rescue diminish with each precious hour and day that passes. My heart goes out to all those who have sustained various injuries from the cyclone, all the time wishing that they rally back and recover speedily.”
President Mnangagwa continued: “From reports on hand, we now know that many drowned, while others were killed in their sleep from swift and unexpected rock falls which demolished their homes and other forms of institutional shelter. Still, others met their tragic fate from overwhelming landslides which suffocated, before swiftly burying them under. We believe that to this day, many still lie unrecovered beneath mounds of debris that hit them with such overwhelming fury in their sleep that they stood no chance.”
President Mnangagwa paid tribute to the United Arab Emirates which he visited recently for committing to assist the victims with medicines and other necessities.
He urged other well-wishers to continue coming forward to assist the affected families.
“I am grateful to the Government of the United Arab Emirates which, in the context of my just ended visit, promptly responded to my request for humanitarian assistance in the wake of the disaster,” said the President.
“We are set to receive medicines and other materials from UAE, which will go quite a long way towards alleviating our situation. Equally, I am grateful to other governments and organisations which have heeded our call for assistance. To ensure the response to the disaster is national, Government will announce focal points which will be accessible for the collection of any kind of assistance meant to complement Government efforts.”
President Mnangagwa said he was aware that the cyclone also affected other parts of the country in Mashonaland East and Masvingo province, adding that Government’s hand would also reach those areas.