Fresh floods loom in Manicaland

BY KENNETH NYANGANI/BLESSED MHLANGA

A FRESH disaster looms in Manicaland after Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba warned yesterday that one of the province’s largest dams in the mountainous Vumba area could breach, putting to risk the lives of over 400 living downstream.

The Mwayera Dam was extensively weakened following the Cyclone Idai deluge nearly two week ago that left hundreds of people dead and thousands homeless in Chimanimani, Chipinge, Masvingo and parts of Midlands provinces.

The heavy downpour left Manyera Dam in Vumba weakened and engineers have since been dispatched to the area where over 400 people living near and around the dam
may be displaced as a precautionary measure.

Thirty families located in the vicinity of the dam have been asked to relocate to higher ground, while engineers monitor the dam wall.

“I am told that Manyera Dam in Vumba has shown some signs of distress which could affect people who are living in the downstream. We discussed the matter in a meeting yesterday night (Saturday),” she said.

The development comes after 259 people have been confirmed dead and 217 unaccounted for, while over 16 000 households have been displaced by Cyclone Idai-induced floods south of Vumba in Chimanimani and Chipinge.

Gwaradzimba said she had since tasked Mutare district administrator Wilson Boore to identify alternative land to relocate the families in the dam’s vicinity.

“We have sent a team of water engineers to assess the situation. We have alerted at least 31 families who are living downstream who are most likely to be affected,” Gwaradzimba said.

“In fact, throughout the province we are expecting to move people who are living downstream (of dams). We draw a lesson from the Tugwi-Mukosi (dam) issue in Masvingo. We are also very aware that some people will refuse to be moved from their areas, but as government we are going to force them.”

The Manicaland Provincial Department of Civil Protection yesterday sent short text messages on mobile network platforms alerting the public of the impending possible disaster.

“Manyera Dam wall in Vumba has weakened and all those downstream are advised to evacuate and go to higher places. Please, if you have relatives in this area pass on this message at once. In case of emergency dial 111 or 112,” the message read.

But, farmers from Burma Valley who were on the ground with the engineers who designed the dam dismissed the threats, saying the dam wall was stable and posed no threat to the community.

They said the part of the dam which was damaged was a special check dam designed to be damaged in case of floods to protect the dam wall.

“Manyera Dam has a small section of its wall designed to wash away in the case of flooding to prevent damage to the main dam wall – think of it like the fuse in your house. This narrow brickwall has been damaged, as intended, which will prevent the main wall from collapsing,” a farmer who refused to be named said.

The Information ministry later revoked the early warning, saying it had been issued without verifying the information.

“We have been informed that checks by engineers have confirmed that both Witchood and Manyera dam are structurally safe. The earlier cautionary announcement is withdrawn. We thank the agencies for acting on this in a timely manner and avoided unnecessary disruption,” the ministry said.

However, human rights activist Farai Maguwu yesterday described government’s disaster preparedness as shambolic.

“I think there is no commitment by the government to help people who are living near the dam. They have just simply said that people should move to higher ground. They did the same thing in Chimanimani and Chipinge where we have lost lives. They sent a message on Twitter and the majority people in the areas are not on Twitter. Loss of lives could have been avoided if the government was serious,” he said.

MDC-Alliance Manicaland spokesperson Trevor Saruwaka weighed in, accusing the Zanu PF administration of disrespecting the sanctity of human life.

“Remember, we are talking about an illegitimate government which doesn’t care. We have a government which clearly fails to carry out its mandate. I don’t think this government will be forgiven in future,” he said

Chimanimani East Zanu PF legislator Joshua Sacco has, meanwhile, described his recent booing by some villagers in the constituency as politically-motivated after he was accused of peddling falsehoods during Cyclone Idai disaster.

Sacco was, however defended by both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga when he was booed by angry villagers during an address at Chimanimani’s Skyline on Wednesday.

Sacco was accused of lying on State television that students from St Charles Lwanga School had been rescued, when they were still marooned and desperate for help.

“Those people who booed me are supporters of former legislator in the constituency, Samuel Undenge. I was aware before that this was going to happen, but all this thing is politically-motivated,” Sacco said.

“How do we prevent this (flood disaster) from happening again? Let’s look at reforestation, so that we can prevent such floods and the other issue is water harvesting for domestic use. We should have more dams that can break the flow of water. We should harvest water for domestic use and irrigation. The Umvumvumvu bridge, in ward 22 can be used for irrigation and it can supply Chayamiti and Nyanyadzi respectively,” he added.

weakened and engineers have since been dispatched to the area where over 400 people living near and around the dam
may be displaced as a precautionary measure.

Thirty families located in the vicinity of the dam have been asked to relocate to higher ground, while engineers monitor the dam wall.

“I am told that Manyera Dam in Vumba has shown some signs of distress which could affect people who are living in the downstream. We discussed the matter in a meeting yesterday night (Saturday),” she said.

The development comes after 259 people have been confirmed dead and 217 unaccounted for, while over 16 000 households have been displaced by Cyclone Idai-induced floods south of Vumba in Chimanimani and Chipinge.

Gwaradzimba said she had since tasked Mutare district administrator Wilson Boore to identify alternative land to relocate the families in the dam’s vicinity.

“We have sent a team of water engineers to assess the situation. We have alerted at least 31 families who are living downstream who are most likely to be affected,” Gwaradzimba said.

“In fact, throughout the province we are expecting to move people who are living downstream (of dams). We draw a lesson from the Tugwi-Mukosi (dam) issue in Masvingo. We are also very aware that some people will refuse to be moved from their areas, but as government we are going to force them.”

The Manicaland Provincial Department of Civil Protection yesterday sent short text messages on mobile network platforms alerting the public of the impending possible disaster.

“Manyera Dam wall in Vumba has weakened and all those downstream are advised to evacuate and go to higher places. Please, if you have relatives in this area pass on this message at once. In case of emergency dial 111 or 112,” the message read.

But, farmers from Burma Valley who were on the ground with the engineers who designed the dam dismissed the threats, saying the dam wall was stable and posed no threat to the community.

They said the part of the dam which was damaged was a special check dam designed to be damaged in case of floods to protect the dam wall.

“Manyera Dam has a small section of its wall designed to wash away in the case of flooding to prevent damage to the main dam wall – think of it like the fuse in your house. This narrow brickwall has been damaged, as intended, which will prevent the main wall from collapsing,” a farmer who refused to be named said.

The Information ministry later revoked the early warning, saying it had been issued without verifying the information.

“We have been informed that checks by engineers have confirmed that both Witchood and Manyera dam are structurally safe. The earlier cautionary announcement is withdrawn. We thank the agencies for acting on this in a timely manner and avoided unnecessary disruption,” the ministry said.

However, human rights activist Farai Maguwu yesterday described government’s disaster preparedness as shambolic.

“I think there is no commitment by the government to help people who are living near the dam. They have just simply said that people should move to higher ground. They did the same thing in Chimanimani and Chipinge where we have lost lives. They sent a message on Twitter and the majority people in the areas are not on Twitter. Loss of lives could have been avoided if the government was serious,” he said.

MDC-Alliance Manicaland spokesperson Trevor Saruwaka weighed in, accusing the Zanu PF administration of disrespecting the sanctity of human life.

“Remember, we are talking about an illegitimate government which doesn’t care. We have a government which clearly fails to carry out its mandate. I don’t think this government will be forgiven in future,” he said

Chimanimani East Zanu PF legislator Joshua Sacco has, meanwhile, described his recent booing by some villagers in the constituency as politically-motivated after he was accused of peddling falsehoods during Cyclone Idai disaster.

Sacco was, however defended by both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga when he was booed by angry villagers during an address at Chimanimani’s Skyline on Wednesday.

Sacco was accused of lying on State television that students from St Charles Lwanga School had been rescued, when they were still marooned and desperate for help.

“Those people who booed me are supporters of former legislator in the constituency, Samuel Undenge. I was aware before that this was going to happen, but all this thing is politically-motivated,” Sacco said.

“How do we prevent this (flood disaster) from happening again? Let’s look at reforestation, so that we can prevent such floods and the other issue is water harvesting for domestic use. We should have more dams that can break the flow of water. We should harvest water for domestic use and irrigation. The Umvumvumvu bridge, in ward 22 can be used for irrigation and it can supply Chayamiti and Nyanyadzi respectively,” he added.

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