BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
VICTIMS of floods, which swept through Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North, in 2017 are still waiting for the government to fulfil its promises to construct houses for them and rehabilitate social infrastructure such as roads.
Gwayi River burst its banks in March 2017 and overflowed to the homesteads of villagers, destroying their houses, schools, bridges, planted crops and infrastructure.
Reports at the time said the floods claimed over six lives.
The worst affected villages were Mahlosi, Mahlaba, Thamuhla, Mbamba, Mele, Lutshome, Maphili and Mbanyana.
To mitigate the humanitarian crisis, the government housed the victims in tents mounted at Sipepa Clinic while also revealing plans of relocating them to higher lying land where there is less risk of flooding.
Tshino and Sawudweni were identified as alternative land to resettle the flood victims with the government saying it would construct as many as 319 houses to accommodate the villagers and their families.
A probe by the joint portfolio committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and the thematic committee on peace and security on the assessment of progress made in areas affected by floods, however, shows the Tsholotsho flood victims still face a humanitarian crisis with some still living in tents.
“At Tshino site, 143 houses were established. Of these, 11 had their roofs blown off by wind and eight houses were yet to be roofed.
“A total of 61 more houses needed to be constructed, with about 20 families in dire need of accommodation as they were still housed in tattered tents,” read in part the findings of the probe presented in Parliament recently.
“A total of 143 toilets were constructed and 130 were not yet roofed.
“At Sawudweni resettlement site, 122 out of the expected 176 houses were constructed.
“At this site, more than 50 people were still living in tents. At both sites, no kitchen has been constructed.
“Discussions with those who had new homes revealed that most of the homes were too small for the families because they have big families and practice polygamy.
“These sentiments were also echoed in Chimanimani by those who were still living in tents.”
According to the report, each family was supposed to be handed over a three-bedroom house, one blair toilet and a kitchen detached from the main house.
However, the parliamentary investigation reveals some of the constructed houses have already started developing cracks, showing poor workmanship.
“Rehabilitation works in the area damaged by flash floods in Tsholotsho were yet to commence.
“Some of those houses constructed had started cracking, pointing to the poor workmanship,” the report reads.
“The resettled people in Tsholotsho complained that the area of 5 250m2 tract of land they were allocated was not adequate for other activities such as cultivation and livestock rearing.
“The committees were informed that the area provided was meant for residential purposes only.
“For agricultural purposes, the victims were expected to utilise the land which they previously occupied.”
Tsholotsho is flood-prone.
Villagers in affected areas have for years resisted relocation arguing they cannot leave their ancestral lands where their relatives and grandparents lie buried.