BY REX MPHISA
BEITBRIDGE residents have called on authorities to enhance the border town’s disaster preparedness after officials conceded that facilities were not up to scratch.
Unless major improvements are done, the residents agreed in separate interviews, the lives of thousands of people and property valued at millions of dollars was at risk.
Beitbridge head of the Civil Protection Unit, Kilibone Ndou Mbedzi, conceded that a lot needed to be addressed.
“[Disaster preparedness is] bad in the district. During this (recent) fire incident, there were lessons learnt and I hope this will improve the state of preparedness of the response teams. There is need for us to stay on the alert, for example, the issue of availability of enough water in the hydrants and also the routine checks of the fire tenders,” she said.
“As chair of Civil Protection Unit, I expect co-operation from the business community in terms of resources and ideas because civil protection is a responsibility of all people,” Mbedzi told Southern Eye following a fire that reduced a State warehouse at Beitbridge to ashes last week.
A fire engine belonging to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), which was within metres from the fire, was faulty and refused to start.
Another fire engine from the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe arrived on the scene late, while other organisations failed to offer any meaningful support.
Hydrants in the Beitbridge Border Post, which ideally should be active at all times considering the huge volumes of both mechanical and human traffic, chemicals handled as imports and export, were not serviced.
As a result, fire tenders collected water about 2km away from the point of fire.
“All this contributes to us not being alert,” Mbedzi, who is also the district administrator at Beitbridge, said.
For the umpteenth time, sound help came from superior fire crews from Beitbridge’s sister municipality in Musina, South Africa.
Handsome Mbedzi, another Beitbridge resident, blamed the government for failure to mobilise sound disaster management teams at its cash cow Beitbridge Border Post.
“Any farmer guards the cow that produces good and more milk. What type of a government is this which fails to see the importance of Beitbridge? This is why we say we need a fresh pair of hands at the helm,” Mbedzi, who lost Beitbridge East parliamentary elections to Zanu PF’s Albert Nguluvhe last year,
“Any clever politician under sanctions would put his best teams at Beitbridge, which has over the years provided the much-needed foreign currency to the country, being home to the sub-region’s busiest border post,” he said.
Bright Mateza, a clearing agent, said while a lot was expected from the government, ordinary citizens should also be educated on safety precautions.
“We have many people selling petrol they keep in their homes which is a recipe for disaster. People must practice safety,” he said.
Up to seven houses were burnt in Beitbridge last year when fuel stored illegally in those homes caught fire.
Mateza also challenged the Beitbridge municipality to train it’s firefighters, who put up a bad show last week and were yet to be credited for winning a battle against any fire.
“Although they were the first on the scene last week, their reaction has not been the best, we need an active crew,” he said.