Trevor Shiri Correspondent
Zimbabwe is one of the countries that were caught in the vicious trail of destruction caused by Cyclone Idai. Mozambique and Malawi have been equally devastated. Life and limb have been lost. Livelihoods lost. Homes destroyed. People swept away. People missing. Property and infrastructure decimated. Utter annihilation. Nature has dealt Zimbabwe, and the region, a tough blow.
At a time when Zimbabweans should be uniting to help victims of the cyclone, both in cash and kind, there are political vultures, circling to pounce on the unfortunate natural events of the past few days. They are salivating at the prospect of capitalising on this natural disaster for cheap political capital. The MDC-Alliance has lost its humanity. It has lost its soul, if ever it had one.
The MDC-Alliance reminds us of that pesky, superstitious uncle or aunt whose beliefs are so steeped in the supernatural that whenever there is a death in the family, they are quick to point fingers at other relatives, even before the funeral wake has begun. The superstitious uncle toxifies the funeral, causing mistrust, fomenting hate, and in the process, create conditions that derail people from paying their last respects with dignity and respect.
They are quick to start making preparations by selecting where and who will do the traditional post-mortem (gata) to nail the alleged culprit who caused the death before even planning for the actual burial arrangements. That uncle or aunt is not derailed by the fact that some of the deaths are straightforward, with even the death of a 100-year-old granny being blamed on someone.
It was sad as it was unfortunate that the MDC-Alliance, through its various mouthpieces scattered on social media, and indeed the traditional media, have chosen to behave like that troublesome uncle or aunt, who blames their opponents for anything and everything.
The mistimed, crass, crude and opportunistic attacks on President Mnangagwa for ostensibly causing the death and destruction wrought by Cyclone Idai is shocking and inhumane. The President is no superman. The President is not God. The President does not have supernatural power to stop such a force of nature such as a cyclone.
The weather forecasts that predicted that the cyclone was likely to affect four provinces, namely Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East was publicised well ahead of time. However, for armchair critics whose default setting is to blame Government for every ill, they still had to blame Government.
Some say Government should have evacuated people in the four provinces beforehand. How on earth was Government supposed to do that, when all it knew was that the cyclone would affect the four provinces, not specific areas? Neither did Government know the itinerary of the cyclone, which is unpredictable.
All Government could do was to publicise and provide survival tips to mitigate the effects of Cyclone Idai.
Natural disasters are aptly named. They are natural and disastrous. They cannot be tamed by any mortal human being, even the President. In fact, what can only be done is to pray to the Almighty. Even insurance companies do not compensate for damages wrought by natural disasters. They do not accept liability. This is simply because one cannot prevent or control natural phenomena, more so a vicious cyclone.
Some armchair critics even said that the Army should have instantaneously deployed helicopters to assist marooned victims. Let us look at this proposition in its proper context. Reports indicate that Cyclone Idai topped a minimum speed of 165km/hr, and reached top speeds of 230km/hr. It must be noted that tropical storms are classified as cyclones, if they reach a minimum of 63km/hr.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that a tropical cyclone, also called typhoon or hurricane, is an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans and is characterised by low atmospheric pressure, high winds, and heavy rain. It notes that it draws energy from the sea surface and maintains its strength as long as it remains over warm water, generating winds that exceed 119km/hr. In extreme cases, winds may exceed 240km/hr, and gusts may surpass 320km/hour.
The phenomenal speeds of a cyclone, more so those of Cyclone Idai that topped 230km/hr, do not subside in a whiff, but take time to gradually dissipate. This is precisely why it took time for the military to fly in to assist marooned and injured people. There is no point in flying into a storm only for the helicopter to drop due to heavy winds and exacerbate an already bad situation.
It is an emotional time, where it is fashionable to try and lay the blame on the President and Government for the death and destruction caused by the vicious Cyclone Idai, but cooler and sober heads are required. This is the time to show we are human. A time to show we are Zimbabweans. A time to show compassion. A time to show a unity of purpose.
Zimbabweans need to be reminded that the cyclone was not peculiar to Zimbabwe only, the powerful Cyclone Idai tore through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe destroying roads, bridges and homes, leaving more than 200 people dead and tens of thousands displaced. According to the United Nations, about 1,5 million people in total have been affected by Cyclone Idai’s torrential rains and winds.
It is certainly no time to entertain the keyboard social media critics, who will not even move an inch to donate or offer help to assist our fellow brothers and sisters. It is high time that Zimbabweans rose above petty party politics, and be a people of compassion. Malawians and Mozambicans are behaving in an exemplary and admirable manner, channelling their energy on offering each other words of compassion and affection, donating and assisting in rescue efforts.
It is disheartening to see video footage of a Zimbabwean taking a video of a woman being swept away, and being saved by a brave compassionate woman. Let us chose to be the saviour, not the social media citizen, who thinks of filming rather than helping.
Zimbabwe, we are better than this.