BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
A BULAWAYO activist has petitioned the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to investigate the Department of Civil Protection (DCP)’s disaster management preparedness after blame was largely heaped on the agency for the Cyclone Idai-induced deaths and loss of property.
Cyclone Idai barrelled through Zimbabwe, killing nearly 400 people, displacing 16 000, while hundreds others are still missing.
In a petition to the ZHRC dated April 10, activist Khumbulani Maphosa blamed the loss of life on DCP’s poor disaster management response, adding that the agency failed to prepare for and reduce the effects of the cyclone.
Maphosa argued that the Meteorological Services Department released adequate information “that could have given any responsible authority enough time, opportunity and space to make sound and critical decisions to protect and promote right to life during the cyclone”.
“The DCP had an administrative duty and mandate to protect the people of Chimanimani from death by way of Cyclone Idai and one of the measures to do that was to order and facilitate evacuation to higher ground and provide temporary shelter [in the form of tents] to those evacuated in order to save precious lives,” he said.
“The DCP failed in its administrative mandate to respect and promote the right to life because they omitted or failed to reach a decision to order an evacuation (even if it meant assisted evacuation) of people from Chimanimani’s low-lying areas to higher ground.”
Government declared the cyclone-induced flooding a national disaster after it caused considerable damage to properties, livelihoods and infrastructure.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday launched a humanitarian and reconstruction appeal for districts affected in the storms’ path.
Maphosa implored the ZHRC to investigate “gross incompetence, omission and failure of the DCP to order or facilitate the evacuation of people of Chipinge and Chimanimani from low-lying areas to higher ground”.
“Investigate why the DCP did not facilitate the erection of temporary shelter before the commencement of Cyclone Idai on higher ground since it already had visual images of the damage happening in Mozambique and it was aware of the dangerous speed of the cyclone.
“…the DCP Management and the National Civil Protection Committee be held responsible and liable for the deaths of 185 Zimbabweans (according to government statistics; 259 according to United Nations agencies) due to Cyclone Idai,” Maphosa’s petition adds.