A MATABELELAND human rights group has urged the government to declare the Cyclone Dineo-induced floods, which wreaked havoc in most parts of the region, a humanitarian disaster to pave way for international donors to mobilise aid for affected families.
By KHANYILE MLOTSHWA/SILAS NKALA
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) secretary-general, Benedict Sibasa, said President Robert Mugabe should urgently intervene and declare the floods a state of disaster.
“He has to declare the floods a humanitarian disaster and invite international support to alleviate the plight of the communities,” he said.
“The negative effects of the floods include, among other effects, loss of human lives, destruction of homes, destruction of public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams, schools, school toilets, clinics; death of livestock and destruction of crops in the fields. The cyclone has also resulted in massive vegetation destruction and environmental degradation.”
The floods have left a trail of destruction in most parts of Matabeleland South and North provinces, particularly in Tsholotsho, Bulilima, Mangwe, Nkayi and parts of Matobo districts.
“The institute also calls on members of the House of Assembly and Senators from Matabeleland to push for an urgent motion to urge the President to make this declaration,” Sibasa said.
“It is the duty of Members of Parliament to represent their constituencies and to ensure that all agencies of the government, including the Executive, are accountable to Parliament.”
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This came as opposition parties and religious groups blasted Mugabe for holding a lavish 93rd birthday party, when thousands of villagers in surrounding areas were reeling under the effects of floods.
Mugabe, during his lengthy address to delegates at the party, skirted the issue of floods.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume said: “The lavish birthday itself is a sign of utter lack of consideration for the jobless and the suffering in the country. To not even visit or even mention the floods, as people are being rendered homeless, is a sign of a heartless leader.
“He does not see himself as running the country, he feels he is there because it is a reward for winning the war.” MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu said Mugabe lives in his own fantasy world.
Zimbabwe Christian Alliance leader, Useni Sibanda said the government is not concerned about the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans and this was evidenced by its delayed response and action to destruction caused by flooding.
“The flooding also exposes the fact that there has been no serious investment in infrastructure after independence, especially in the southern parts of the country,” he said.
“The president should have indicated in his speech the action and response of the State, but his priority was on political power retention and succession issues.”
Human Rights Watch’s Southern Africa director, Dewa Mavhinga, said it would have been fitting for Mugabe to cancel the birthday celebrations and divert the resources towards assisting the flood victims.
“But President Mugabe and his government are generally far removed from the realities of the people, especially the people of Matabeleland, who have been more acutely affected by chronic government neglect and underdevelopment since independence in 1980,” he said.
“It is a slap in the face of victims for President Mugabe to throw a lavish birthday party right at the doorstep of flood victims and completely ignore their plight.”
Mthwakazi Republic Party spokesperson, Mbonisi Gumbo said his party was seriously concerned at Mugabe’s silence on the floods.
“Mugabe is on record declaring Harare roads a national disaster, but fails to say a word about the situation in Matabeleland,” he said.
“This confirms our firm beliefs that Mugabe and his Zanu PF cronies are nothing but tribalists, who believe Matabeleland people are less human than them.”
MDC official, Discent Collins Bajila said Mugabe’s action was a sign of how micromanaged he is now.
“The speech was obviously written by his micromanagement clique way before the disaster,” he opined.
“He no longer has the agility to veer off script and attend to contemporary issues. Unfortunately, his problem is age and, is incurable.”