BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Victims of flash floods that hit parts of Binga early this year are on their own after the government said resources mobilised to assist them rebuild their lives were redirected to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed four lives so far.
The relocation of the victims to safer areas and subsequent construction of the promised shelter has also been suspended with the Binga North legislator Prince Dubeko Sibanda warning of a humanitarian crisis.
Flash floods hit Binga’s Nsungulwe village in February, destroying homes, killing livestock and uprooting planted crops and destroying infrastructure such as roads, leaving villagers at the mercy of government and other donor agencies.
The floods killed one villager.
“They have been left on their own; their living conditions are pathetic,” Sibanda said.
“Hunger is stalking them as they did not harvest anything.
“They have been relying on food handouts from the government, but that food assistance has not been coming.
“Water points in that area have dried up, the people are staying in the tents…this pathetic situation is worsened by the fact that authorities have been silent; the authorities are nowhere to be found to update the victims on what they are doing to assist them rebuild their lives.”
The government identified relocation of the affected villagers — totalling nearly 200 – to safer higher grounds as a permanent solution while also offering to mobilise resources to build new houses for the marginalised Tonga community.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo admitted the government had failed the Binga flood victims, but was quick to blame this on Covid-19.
“We need to appreciate that there is an outbreak of Covid-19,” Moyo said.
“The resources that were mobilised are being channelled to fighting Covid-19; everything is at a standstill as we are busy fighting this disease, but we will not forget them.
He claimed the flood victims had been given enough food before the outbreak of Covid-19.
“We gave them too much food, and we told them not to sell that food,” he said.
In March it was revealed that the flood victims were resisting relocation to a new area identified by the government.
The subject of relocation reportedly brings sad memories among the Tonga people, who are still angry following their forced relocation in the 1950s from the banks of the Zambezi River where they used to reside.
Thousands of Tonga people in the Zambezi Valley were forcibly removed from their land in the Zambezi Valley to pave way for the construction of the Kariba dam, a project which was funded by the then Federal Power Board, now the Zambezi River Authority.
They were promised fertile lands, homes and electricity once power generation started, but to date the Tonga, who identified strongly with the Zambezi River, calling themselves “Basilwizi”— the River People, are still living in darkness and are much poorer and blame their woes on the 1950’s relocation exercise.