The adage goes – once beaten twice shy and from it, Zimbabwe must learn.
When Cyclone Idai began hitting Mozambique on March 14, weather experts warned in numerous reports that the natural disaster was fast advancing towards Zimbabwe’s Eastern region and the other parts of Malawi.
Found flat footed – unfortunately at the cost of hundreds of lives, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government must have learnt a serious lesson on basics, that it’s better to be proactive. The need to act on the situation before it happens is a better way to take control, than being reactive and trying to respond when the problem reaches your doorstep and gets out of control.
Weather experts argued that previous cyclones, which formed in the Central Indian Ocean – miles away from the coast (inside the ocean waters), were easier to prepare for, allowing time to mitigate the damage well in advance. Not with Cyclone Idai, which formed on the landside of Mozambique, close to the coastline, bombarding all the areas it passed through.
If Zimbabwe was a school student facing imminent examination, she should have been expected to nail it with flying colours, as she was given a sample of the questions identically coming out three days after the Mozambique’s day of being struck.
However, Zimbabwe chose to be that slow learner who needs many trials, repeating one concept a zillion times before it finally clicks. We were way better off than the Mozambican situation in that we had three to four days to cushion us – with clear weather reports which continued to indicate the unwanted visitor was coming to destroy parts of Manicaland Province.
When I read about the importance of community radio stations in a number of publications, I decided had to do a brief research on the pros of having them in many places of our country. In simple terms, a community radio station is an independent, nonprofit broadcaster that serves a certain community within a set radius.
It is unfortunate that in Zimbabwe we have only eight such licensed radio stations, authorized in 2015 by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. We can sadly compare eight community radio stations in 2015 with the more than 165 community radio stations South Africa had by 2006, only 12 years after its independence, which came 14 years after ours.
These topic on these types of radio stations is daily talk now because they reach out to a certain organic audience with predominantly local-specific of our communities. They make the dissemination of emergency information such as that on a calamity effective, timely and with much detail and in real time. Most of the community radio stations are operated using the local first language that is the mother tongue, which is understood across board.
Had we had such resources in many places in our country, the damage and loss of life might have been lessened and or even avoided because our people would have been forewarned and therefore, forearmed.
In as much the government could have done much better, communities have learnt the hard way, especially those few who got the news on time but were reluctant to leave their low or disaster prone areas.
Tragedy has taught us that the next time such warnings of disasters, including cyclones, come, we must take heed and act accordingly, that prompt action must be taken by all stake holders, government being the main actor expected to solicit, implement and lead proactive programs.
Some of the proactive measures that need be implemented by either government and or stakeholders in our communities include;
- avoiding to do farming in flood plains areas,
- improving the drainage system, especially in urban centres and swiftly evacuating potential victims before the cyclone strikes.
- contractors to be given tenders for construction of infrastructures like bridges, roads, and building like schools must be inspected during construction so as to ascertain if expected standards are followed
- strong structures are not easily washed away as witnessed in some parts of the affected areas.
Lastly, we pass our condolences to the bereaved families. May the souls of our departed beloved brothers and sisters rest in eternal peace. To those left injured, we pray that you may get well soon.
Stewart Musarapasi is a Business and Political Analyst based in Europe. He writes here in his personal capacity and the views expressed in this article are entirely his, not necessarily those of African Voice Global.
He may be contacted via: Email; firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter; stewart_msp, Facebook; stewie musarapasi