HARARE – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday called for a united front in tackling the Cyclone Idai tragedy, as he took leaders of 17 opposition political parties on a flight tour of cyclone-ravaged Chimanimami, in the country’s eastern province of Manicaland.
The cyclone wreaked havoc in the area, leaving more than 270 people dead, hundreds missing and thousands displaced and desperate for immediate aid.
With leaders of the 17 political parties who are engaged in a national dialogue aimed at finding a lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s decades-long multi-facetted crisis, Mnangagwa’s visit was aimed at assessing rescue efforts and progress in assisting victims of the tropical cyclone.
Among the opposition leaders on tow were Professor Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly and MDC-T leader Dr Thokozani Khupe. Also in the tour were vice presidents Kembo Mohadi and Constantino Chiwenga, as well as minister of local government July Moyo.
Mnangagwa took the opposition political parties on tour in four groups and later addressed a joint rally at the epicenter of the crisis. Each of the political party leaders was booked in Mutare and received an allowance from the state for joining the president in assessing the situation on the ground. They were all flown in various state funded helicopters from Harare.
“We are working round the clock to assist you and alleviate your suffering, and we are also involved in a longer term project to rebuild and strengthen infrastructure,” said Mnangagwa.
“Tragedy has no totem nor political party, and so as leaders we have come together in support of our brothers and sisters. The grief of one family is the grief of the entire community, and the grief of the community is the grief of the entire nation,” said Mnangagwa, who begun his tour from a bridge decimated by the tropical cyclone.
From Nhedziwa, the entourage proceeded to Machongwe, one of the most affected areas in Chimanimani. On the other hand, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga led a delegation that went to Biriwiri and then proceeded to Chipinge.
Chipinge was hard-hit in terms of water supply and the hospital there is the one where most people from affected areas were taken to. From Chipinge Chiwenga proceeded to Ngangu for President Mnangagwa’s keynote address.
The Mohadi-led delegation left Mutare for Cashel at Mutambara Hospital, from where they went to Nyahode River, where there was a badly-damaged bridge.
Until this week, rescuers were not able to go beyond that river by road – either to food or to evacuate people. Mohadi and his delegation then went to Chikukwa, the most isolated area, by road. Both the evacuation of people and delivery of food were still being done by helicopter.
The 17 parties that accompanied the president excluded the MDC-Alliance, led by Nelson Chamisa and the National People’s Party, led by Joice Mujuru, who have previously distanced themselves from ongoing engagements with the Zimbabwean leader over political rivalry.
Chamisa has demanded that a neutral person be in charge of the talks with an aim to break the impasse on what he claims is the question of legitimacy, international engagement and the state of the economy.