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Canine shame: Zimbabwe sends South Africa SOS for cadaver dogs to locate cyclone victims


Steven Mahwai

HARARE – The Zimbabwean government has asked neighbouring South Africa to help with cadaver dogs, as the search for more victims of cyclone Idai – believably buried under mudslide, continues in the eastern district of Chimanimami.

Local government minister July Moyo told journalists Tuesday the dogs were coming into Zimbabwe, after it emerged locally-trained sniffer dogs were only suitable for substances like dagga and minerals.

“We continue with our rescue and operation endeavour and right now we are expecting today two teams of assistance coming from dogs which can do the sniffing for bodies,” said Gumbo.

“You know sniffer dogs,  we are now educated ours can sniff for gold, can be sniffing for mbanje (marijuana) or other drugs, but there are specially trained ones which can sniff for dead bodies and those ones, we generally don’t have in Zimbabwe and therefore, we are getting assistance from our neighbours in South Africa.”

“We expect that the first team should be arriving anytime between now (Tuesday midmorning) and 12 midday and the other team, SA was still mobilising to send more people to come here,” Moyo added.

“Four teams will be deployed together with our police and army units, who are already in the area. Because we believe a lot of people are buried there, these sniffer dogs have become more important.”

Hundreds of victims of the violent cyclone Idai are believed to have been buried under the mudslide which swept away their homes and uprooted rocks from the nearby mountains. Some people were said to have been swept to the Mozambican side and at least eight were buried without identification.

The cyclone, accompanied by heavy winds and heavy downpours, left an entire growth point and nearby urban settlement with more than 80 houses at Dzingire Growth Point, popularly known as Kopa in Chipinge, in rubbles.

Large rocks replaced what was formerly a residential area and a police station and widespread suspicions were that all those who were residing at the area are buried under the large rocks and debris.

“We still have not accounted for all because we still have a large number that is missing and even from that large number which is missing, we think we are still missing some who have not been reported as missing. We suspect that those missing from families are buried under the avalanche, the mudslides which came from the mountains, like heavy stones which have replaced what used to be residential areas,” Moyo said.

Moyo, who was accompanied by other cabinet ministers who included Perence Shiri (Lands), Monica Mutsvangwa (Information), Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu (Industry), Paul Mavima (education) and Sithembiso Nyoni (women), revealed rescue operations had managed to create roads to reach the affected people, but more needed to be done as only selected vehicles could access the damaged roads.

He added most of the affected families had been attended to, but stated reports of the alleged politicisation of food aid were disturbing.

The minister said even MDC officials such as former Mutare mayor Brain James were involved in the rescue mission and their activities were above board.

“Yes you have seen reports that Zanu PF is grabbing, that cannot be a thing that is allowed,” Moyo said adding the Zanu PF officials could have been trying to help transport the foodstuffs to affected communities, as they had vehicles that could reach the areas.

He was quick to say a directive had been given to government officials not to use political offices to distribute donations, as this had the potential of affecting relief efforts.

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