Beitbridge families now destitute in the wake of floods

HER eyes well up when she starts narrating how floods that hit the Beitbridge district recently left her almost a pauper.

BY Our Staff

Jennifer Hlongwane had cattle, goats and her crops were doing well when floods swept away almost everything.

“I had cattle, five beasts in total and they all drowned,” said the 59-year-old Hlongwane “My maize crop at the irrigation scheme had started maturing but almost all of it was washed away.”

For three days in January, Hlongwane and several others from her clan were stranded at Tshikwalakwala’s Mapowu village before they were airlifted to safer ground by the Civil Protection Unit.

Seven families from the Hlongwane clan live in the flood-prone Mapowu village, but they have been reluctant to move to safer ground because of their cultural ties to the area.

It is also difficult and costly to build houses anew, they said.
“We were born in the area and so have strong cultural ties with it,” Hlongwane said. “Our fathers who were also born in the area died and were buried here. We have experienced floods almost every five years but they were never as bad as this year’s.”

Another member of the clan, Bernard Hlongwane, said the villagers were happy to receive rain for four continuous days in January following a long dry spell.

Most of them, he said, celebrated as they had already done dry planting.

But they started getting worried when the rains became heavier with levels rising steeply.

“We had been warned about five days before the rain became stronger, that floods would soon hit our area but we thought it was the usual thing,” Bernard said. “Even when it finally flooded, we felt we were safe because although we were surrounded by water and could not come down to the shops and our children could not go to school, the water did not get to our former homesteads which are on the mountain.”

However, Bernard lost nine donkeys which he used as draught power.

Since the evacuation at the end of January, the Hlongwane families and five other families from Bala village have been living in tents at Tshikwalakwala clinic.

A total of 65 people were evacuated from Bala and Mapowu villages following the floods.

“We do not enjoy living here but there is nothing we can do since we were promised safer homes,” said Esnath Sithole, one of the affected villagers. “We are happy that the building material we were promised arrived yesterday.”

Beitbridge district administrator Simon Muleya said 160 homesteads were completely destroyed by the floods.

He said the floods had increased food insecurity levels in the district.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is currently providing food and other material assistance to the victims.

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