Zvamaida Murwira and Innocent Ruwende
President Mnangagwa's decision to declare two days of national mourning in honour of victims of Cyclone Idai has been hailed by business, civic society and religious groups for affording Zimbabweans an opportunity to mobilise resources for survivors who lost their beloved ones and all their possessions.
The President declared today and tomorrow as national mourning days in honour of those who perished following the cyclone which ravaged Chimanimani, Chipinge and parts of Masvingo and Midlands last week.
This comes as the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) last night confirmed the latest figure of 154 deaths, while 187 remained unaccounted for.
About 4 884 were completely displaced, while 136 were still marooned with 162 injured.
"The death toll for the Cyclone Idai-induced floods continues to rise. The following is an update on Cyclone Idai as at 22nd March 2019. A proper assessment has not yet been undertaken due to access challenges. The domestic and international appeal document for assistance is being finalised and is scheduled to be launched on Tuesday 26 March 2019. Access to the affected areas has improved following the clearing of road from Chipinge to Chimanimani Town. Weather condition has also improved despite some intermittent rainfall episodes in the affected areas. Search and rescue efforts are underway, albeit difficult conditions," said CPU in a statement.
At least eight districts have been affected, with Chimanimani recording the highest number of deaths which stood at 129, while Chipinge had six and Masvingo Province registering five deaths.
Mutare rural witnessed four deaths, while Makoni and Buhera registered one death apiece.
On infrastructure, at least 18 water points had been affected, while 10 bridges bore the effects of the cyclone, with 48 schools affected.
"At least 95 percent of the road networks in the affected areas were damaged. Priority is to save lives first. Operations are underway in Kopa and Rusitu areas of Chimanimani. Efforts are being made to recover mudslide and rubble covered bodies, however the process is slow," said the CPU.
"Only positively identified bodies are ferried by helicopters for burial by relatives, 18 unidentified bodies are yet to be buried but are now in a decomposing state. Vhimba area in Chimanimani still to be reached."
CPU said all necessary efforts were are being made to make the link roads to the affected areas trafficable as a total of 66 patients had been airlifted to medical centres.
"There is a total of 40 doctors drawn from PSMI, Zimbabwe Medical Association, ZRP and the army and these have been deployed to Chipinge Hospital, Skyline and others are in the field. 36 classrooms were damaged and require repairing, 160 squat holes were flooded, 25 teachers houses had their roofs blown off, 3 teachers are missing, Charles Lwanga is the only school that was closed," added the CPU.
"Through Government-sponsored programmes, support the rebuilding of stronger and more durable structures of shelter for our rural communities, starting with families in susceptible areas. Our whole approach to built environments just has to change in light of experiences of this deadly cyclone."
The department said Government will embark on comprehensive disaster mapping for the whole country, rework the national disaster management plan to make sure the country was better prepared for disasters in future.
Plans were also afoot to build a National Disaster Fund which would finance programmes and projects meant to fortify communities against future disasters.
"In all these measures, Government will proceed by way of broad consultations at all levels, and with all citizens to ensure there is consensus. For when all is said and done, a good disaster plan is one that enlists the support and involvement of communities," said the CPU.
And yesterday Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the declaration by the President of the two days of national mourning was timely, right and proper.
"Two day mourning has been declared by H.E President Mnangagwa - mourning in respect of those who perished in the disaster. A solemn occasion where Zimbabweans as a total nation can bring their mind to focus on an unprecedented natural calamity never experienced in a time of peace. The outpouring grief for the deceased and sympathy for the suffering victims has elicited that spirit of togetherness and unity on all the populace. There is palpable feeling from empathy as Zimbabweans all identify as one in bereavement, pain and suffering," she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said Cyclone Idai had turned out to be "an occassion to search deep down and bring the finest attributes of the spirit of being Zimbabwe".
"It is timely, right and proper that H.E President E.D Mnangagwa had fittingly captured the mood of the terrible time and brought Zimbabweans together as one in the two day mourning period. Not only are we supplying much needed material relief to the victims, we are going further to deliver our soul and mind to our fellow compatriots in Chimanimani-Chipinge environs and even beyond to equally stricken brothers and sisters in Mozambique and Malawi," added Minister Mutsvangwa in a statement.
When he declared the national days of mourning, President Mnangagwa implored the nation to spare a thought for those still grieving.
"We expect all our citizens, both individually and collectively, and in different ways which are informed by their faiths, beliefs and cultures, to remember all our dear departed by way of prayers and in whatever other forms and practices," said President Mnangagwa.
"Above all, the two days should allow us to concentrate and focus our thoughts on this tragedy which is sure to ramify in many ways in the lives of our people and that of our nation."
United Kingdom based businessman Mr Trusty Gushure, who is the Chairman for Equality and Fairness Commission (Nottingham) and Gifted4Good chief executive officer said whenever a State makes a decree like that, it is inherently political but in this case on Zimbabwe it shows the support for the victims.
He said by the declaration the President showed empathy and care.
"For businesses and entrepreneurs of Zimbabwe it is a day to remember that we cry with those that crying and mourn with those who are mourning. This will show that unity of the people of Zimbabwe is the backbone of our nation and also the foundation of building Zimbabwe," said Mr Gushure.
He said UK and Diaspora were already mobilising the governments, local authorities, companies, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), World Health Organization, World Food Program and all citizens to join in hands in rebuilding Zimbabwe.
Business executive Mr Sharif Mussa of Mahomed Mussa Wholesalers saluted the gesture by President Mnangagwa.
"These are trying and difficult times for us as a nation and it is important to unite and mitigate the effects of the cyclone especially on the survivors and their families. It is unfortunate that several lives have been lost and property lost but we thank the Government for leading the way as we all try to come to terms with this tragedy.
"As Mahomed Mussa, our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the victims and the nation at large," said Mr Mussa.
Apostolic Faith Mission overseer pastor Johanne Nehanda said the church had lined up various activities to mark the days of mourning.
"We will carry out church services remembering the victims of Cyclone Idai. We are mobilising groceries which include sugar, sanitary wear, soap, water as well as clothes. We are looking to raise at least 60 tonnes," he said.
Group Chief executive of the Herentals Group of Schools and Colleges Dr Innocent Benza said they were mobilising resources for the victims.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of lives due to the cyclone and as Herentals group we join the nation mourning the deceased and we will play our part to assist. This is a call by the President for everyone to remember the victims and help in their different ways," said Dr Benza.
Prophetess Beaullah Machiri of Champions Royal Assembly said as Zimbabweans remember those who perished they should think of how they can assist.
"The two days of mourning mean all hands on deck. Everyone should walk in their sector and beyond. It means the business sector is reflecting how we can all rebuild the lives of those affected by the tragedy," she said.
"For the next 12 months we have to rebuild, people"s dignity and confidence, schools, start the agricultural season afresh. As we observe the two days of mourning, think of what you can do at an individual level and as a corporate. As Zimbabweans we are learning that by unity and love we can achieve more."