HomeLocalTsholotsho floods: A 97-year-old woman’s lucky escape

Tsholotsho floods: A 97-year-old woman’s lucky escape

At 97, Rosina Dube’s face, covered with loose folds of skin often associated with old age and her blood-flecked eyes tell a sad and sorrowful story.

news in depth BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

Ninety-seven-year old  Rosina Dube is among those who are currently staying at the relief camp at Sipepa Clinic in Tsholotsho. Pictures: KB Mpofu
Ninety-seven-year old Rosina Dube is among those who are currently staying at the relief camp at Sipepa Clinic in Tsholotsho. Pictures: KB Mpofu

Wiping her forehead with the back of her hand, the granny born on November 7 1920 said at one point, she accepted her time had come.

She had given up on life and on the fighting spirit that has kept her alive for the past 97 years.

Dube was marooned with several other villagers at Tsholotsho’s Mapili village, clutching each other’s hands and moving from one area to the next to avoid being swept away.

“It was scary, so frightening,” Dube, who was wearing a washed out blouse and an A-Line skirt —those that fit closely around the waist, but are slightly wider at the bottom — said.

“I am blessed to have had such a long life, experienced near death experiences but nothing of that sort came close to what I witnessed that Wednesday after our homes were flooded,” she added.

Dube was airlifted to safety with several others by an Air force of Zimbabwe helicopter.

She narrated her tale.

“It was not raining. In fact, it had not rained for two days. We were about to have supper when we started hearing roaring sounds of the Gwayi River,” she said.

“The river was quiet, and within a flash, water started seeping through the doors, from ankle level, rising with every minute up to knee level, forcing us to leave the kitchen.”

“Gwayi River had burst its banks, and overflowed to their homestead, and several others.

“We moved to the next homestead and they had also moved out to the next where there was higher ground,” she said.
“We saw property being swept away, houses being razed to the ground…it was a frightening sight, and the sounds of the water made it even scarier.

“We kept moving in groups, clutching each other’s hands from one high place to the next but the water levels kept rising, way up to the chest. How we were not swept away, only God knows,” she added.

 But the muddy clay soils kept slowing them down, as “we would be swallowed to knee level” like quicksand as “we moved to safer grounds”.

The floods left her with nothing. Not even a cup or a plate!

All her life savings were washed away, and it still rings like a dream to her that she has nothing, she said wiping tears that flowed down her aged cheeks.

All her property, including a bed and kitchen utensils, goats, chickens and four pole and mud huts were all swept away when the river burst its banks and flooded several villages of Tsholotsho.

“And at my old age, where do I start from? They are talking of relocating us, but I don’t have that energy. Sometimes I wish I could have just died,” she said.

“It stresses me a lot when I think of what I have become in a flash. It will not be a surprise if hypertension kills me, or if I suffer a stroke.”

Dube and several hundreds of villagers are now temporarily sheltered at the Sipepa flood victim camp following the floods that since been declared a national disaster.

Schools, bridges, planted crops and various infrastructure have been swept away, with reports the floods claimed more than six lives.

Liver Ndebele, from Mapili village, was also left counting her losses.

“I am still searching for my cows. My prayer is that I locate my cattle. I have been searching for my cattle but I believe they were swept to faraway places.

“As for the rest, the only thing that survived the floods are the poles that supported the bedroom hut. Everything that I worked for, and owned was swept away,” Ndebele, aged 75, said.

Dube said she was praying that the government or non-governmental organisations provide some financial assistance to help her buy “anything to kick-start my life”.

“Very soon, we will be out of this camp and where will I go? Who will feed or clothe me or let alone, buy underwear for me?

“It’s de-huminising and that is why many of us here who lost all belongings ask for some kind of assistance to kick-start our lives,” Dube said.

Last Friday, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister, Cain Mathema led a government delegation comprising Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology minister Jonathan Moyo, who is the area’s MP and his Primary and Secondary Education counterpart,  Lazarus Dokora, to assess the situation at the Sipepa camp, where the flood victims have been temporarily accommodated.

According to an October 2016 disaster situation report by the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), about 2 000 homesteads have been destroyed by floods, with Tsholotsho named as the worst affected.

CPU deputy director, Sibusisiwe Ndlovu said Sipepa in Tsholotsho still remained at high risk of flooding.

“This is arguably the most severely affected district [Tsholotsho] in the country to date and a considerable number of households have lost their homes to flooding or excessive moisture,” Ndlovu said.

“The total number of the displaced is 850 to date, inclusive of schoolchildren and infants. The local school also flooded and children can no longer access the school.”

Government said new lands had been identified to relocate the Tsholotsho flood victims, but would-be beneficiaries say “this is not enough”.

“It’s not like we want to be a welfare case, but here we are talking of several, if not hundreds, who have virtually nothing, no income whatsoever to re-build their lives.

“Land will come, but then what?” asked Getrude Sibelo, aged 62.

“Personally, I am praying for a food-for-work kind of scheme, where we are employed for road works and other jobs for payment so we re-start our lives and not become a charity case.”

Air force of Zimbabwe helicopters were used to airlift 855 villagers that were marooned following the heavy rains that pounded the flood-prone district.

Among those rescued were 86 terminally ill people and 501 school-going children.

While the swift response saved lives, a recent report by Matabeleland North provincial administrator, Latiso Dlamini painted a gloomy picture of the situation at the camp and the district in general.

Dlamini said the Sipepa camp urgently needed food, blankets, medical supplies, sanitary wear, stationery for schoolchildren, stationery for administration, plates, cups, cooking pots, tents, protective clothing, mobile toilets, soap, and cooking oil.

She said the CPU’s reaction to the disaster had been crippled by poor communication, inadequate resources, lack of suitable vehicles, poor road network, lack of allowances, impassable bridges, continuous rains and lack of experience in setting up such a camp.

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