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Too little too late, but Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa responds to Cyclone Idai

Steven Mahwai

HARARE Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has shortened his trip to the United Arab Emirates to try and urgently respond to the disaster caused by Cyclone Idai, which has killed dozens of people, caused the disappearance of more than 150 and displaced many in the country’s eastern Manicaland province.

Although the visit was for a day – sources revealed Mnangagwa had already held talks with the UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Saturday, but government spin doctors said the president had decided to end the trip because of the disaster.

Mnangagwa left Harare Friday morning with Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, Mines Minister Winston Chitando and Philip Valerio Sibanda, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, at the time the cyclone had already struck and more than 20 people had been feared dead.

But 24 hours later, Mnangagwa, through the ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, announced he was he heading back home to deal with the natural disaster after he had held talks with his UAE counterpart.

Minutes of their meeting indicate the two leaders discussed mutual opportunities relating to investment and the economy. They also exchanged views on regional and international affairs before a banquet was hosted for the visiting Zimbabwean leader.

In its statement, the Ministry of  Information, Broadcasting and Publicity, said Mnangagwa wanted to be directly involved in the rescue efforts of those affected by the natural disaster, which also destroyed dwellings and rendered thousands homeless.

The Ministry said Mnangagwa had incorporated a plea in his schedule to help the distressed cyclone victims who urgently needed water, clothes, shelter, medication and other basic essentials like food.

“The President has also incorporated in his schedule, a plea for assistance for the cyclone victims,” the Ministry said.

In Mnangagwa’s absence, Acting President Constantino Chiwenga had already declared a state of disaster the situation that had befallen many people in the country. Government had also deployed the army to help in rescue efforts. The cyclone had been foretold weeks before and its possible impact was known long before Mnangagwa embarked on his sojourn using a hired private jet.

The cyclone, which has also killed people in Malawi and Mozambique and displaced many others, was expected to continue throughout to Monday.

The Civil Protection Unit warned Zimbabweans to avoid visiting the Cyclone ravaged Chimanimani and Chipinge areas Monday, adding increased traffic caused road congestion, which disturbed the transportation of relief supplies and slowed down rescue efforts.

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