Good evening fellow Zimbabweans,
Once again I address you tonight both to update you on the tragic cyclone disaster which befell our nation last week, and to help keep us focused on this tragedy until the situation stabilises. Allow me firstly, to express deepest gratitude to those of our citizens, inclusive of different arms of Government, our uniformed services and cooperating partners who came forward with generous donations and assistance to the relief effort. I also recognise and pay tribute in a very special way to foreign governments, organisations, and citizens whose deep sense of compassion has moved them to stand by us in this hour of great national grief and need.
Our nation shall always be grateful for their assistance.
I was able to witness first hand the fury of the cyclone and the great devastation it left in its wake. As we now know, we have lost many citizens, with the human toll likely to reach several hundreds. I came face to face with the horrific accounts of many who continue to grieve the loss of loved ones and are living in the hope of the recovery of their remnants. We continue to work with our neighbouring sister Republic of Mozambique — itself a victim of the same cyclone, to ensure as many remains of our people as possible are recovered and brought back home for decent burials.
In Rusitu, I saw with unmitigated despair, big boulders recklessly strewn on what used to be a settlement, a banana market and even a police post. In respect of the latter, both the serving officer and prisoners were washed away, alongside other Government structures and private residences. The settlement was completely washed away, and the remains of the occupants unaccounted for to this day.
Such is the horrific tragedy which hit us last week, one sure to stay in our memories for years to come. So, too, will the scars: on individuals, on families, on communities and on our nation as a whole.
We all have to try our best to bring comfort to one another, especially to those affected. To that end, Government is declaring two days of national mourning, starting this Saturday, in honour of all those we have lost, and to spare a thought for those still grieving. We expect all our citizens, both individually and collectively, and in different ways which are informed by their faiths, beliefs and cultures, to remember all our dear departed: by way of prayers, and in whatever other forms and practices.
Above all, the two days should allow us to concentrate and focus our thoughts on this tragedy which is sure to ramify in many ways in the lives of our people and that of our nation. On its part, Government will concentrate on the following actions:
1) Intensify the search for all persons still missing from the cyclone disaster;
2) Recover and decently bury any bodies or remains which are still outstanding;
3) Ensure adequate food relief to affected families and communities between now and the next harvest;
4) Provide free medical services to all those affected by the cyclone;
5) Provide temporary shelter to the victims of the cyclone;
6) Ensure safe and clean water supply to affected communities;
7) Restore key social services and amenities to affected communities;
8) Restore communication services, both hard and soft, so affected families re-integrate with the rest of the country;
9) Take measures to prevent outbreaks of diseases and epidemics in and around affected communities;
10) Secure the lives and educational opportunities for children of families affected by the cyclone;
11) Begin to repair broken livelihoods for affected families and communities through a variety of interventions;
12) Create safety nets and recovery programmes for the poor and vulnerable in those communities to help them recover and escape the poverty ratchet effect;
13) Relocate settlements to safer areas;
14) Through Government-sponsored programmes, support the rebuilding of stronger and more durable structures of shelter for our rural communities, starting with families in susceptible areas. Our whole approach to built environments just has to change in light of experiences of this deadly cyclone;
15) Embark on comprehensive disaster mapping for our whole country;
16) Rework the national disaster management plan to make sure our nation is better prepared for disasters in future;
17) Build a National Disaster Fund which finances programmes and projects meant to fortify communities against future disasters;
18) Lobby for a sub-regional disaster prevention and management strategy and;
19) Intensify greater global advocacy and action against climate change.
In all these measures, Government will proceed by way of broad consultations at all levels, and with all citizens to ensure there is consensus. For when all is said and done, a good disaster plan is one that enlists the support and involvement of communities.
Let me thank you once more for your help, support, sympathies and prayers. Above all, thank you for the great unity and sense of community activism which has shown in our nation. It is a great resource we should always nurture, indeed our most durable defence against any disaster.
I thank you and a very good night.