Leroy Dzenga recently in CHIMANIMANI
Getting a house in Chimanimani’s Ngangu suburb was one of Mbuya Enna Muvhuni’s greatest achievements in her 69 years of existence.
She recalls the day they moved into the property in 1974.
“It felt like a dream,” she said.
Modest as the house was, she was content to be part of the tightly knit community made up mostly of timber plantation workers and civil servants.
“We all knew each other,” she remarked, as she led the way into her tent at Nyamatanda Camp, about two kilometres from the place she had called home for 45 years.
She had retired and spent most her time relaxing and watching her grandchildren running around the yard.
But her world literally came crashing down on March 15, 2019, a day whose events still haunt her to this day.
“I loved staying in Ngangu. I raised my four children in that house, now I have two granddaughters. This was the only home they knew,” Mbuya Muvhuni said.
On the fateful day, they hoped the pattering sounds of rain would provide lullabies for a good night’s sleep, but this was not to be.
“When we saw dark clouds and heard that strong rains were coming, we were happy, hoping that it would rain through the night while we slept. It unfortunately came with destruction; we lost neighbours. When we went to the church, familiar faces were being brought and we tried to save some, but in most cases it was too late,” she narrated. On her part, she may have managed to escape with all her family but they lost all belongings. Only an avocado tree in their yard survived.
She was among the Cyclone Idai survivors who were housed at Chimanimani Hotel for about two weeks, before they were transferred to Nyamatanda Camp, a section of a farm at the edge of Chimanimani in Ward 15.
A well-wisher allowed 33 of the affected families to occupy a section of their farm, which saw the setting up of the camp by Government, with support from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and other humanitarian agencies.
The tents, which were provided for temporary shelter, have seen better days.
Others have since left the camps to rent in nearby residential areas and farms, as the tents become increasingly inhabitable.
However, despite the derelict condition of her tent, Mbuya Muvhuni remains hopeful.
“This is my home now; I have to take care of it. If it was not for this tent, together with my son and two granddaughters we would have been sleeping outside, but this is a roof over our heads,” she said.
For Mbuya Muvhuni’s family and 223 other households, it may be time to start preparing for a new permanent home.
Government, working with its development partners, is in the final stages of preparing a relocation site for the affected families. Construction is presently underway at Runyararo, formerly known as West-End Farm. Ninety-three of the 105 houses planned in the first phase of the project are now habitable, with just a few touch-ups left.
The new residence is shaping up, with Government having -built five-roomed houses on 5 000 square metres per stand.
Chimanimani District Development Coordinator Mr Joseph Manyurapasi said he expects families to begin occupying the houses by the end of this month.
“We hope their relocation will be easier because they already know where they are going. We have been taking them to the site so that they appreciate the works,” he said.
The only thing that is delaying the transfers are ablution facilities, whose construction has, however, begun. In addition to the residential stands, beneficiaries will also get small plots, which will help them sustain themselves.
“We have since pegged plots, 2,5 hectare plots for each household, so that when they get there they have space to do their projects. This is why we need them to move as soon as possible, so they can prepare for the coming rainy season.”
The current masterplan will also see the construction of a shopping centre, a stadium, a library and schools.
Space for a school has already been identified and there are hopes construction will begin soon. There are currently 224 households in four camps: Arboretum (58), Nyamakanda (30), Garikai (83) and Kopa (53).
Ten wards in Chipinge and Chimanimani host 450 other households that were displaced and accommodated by fellow villagers.
In addition to the 105 houses earmarked for permanent occupation, the IOM is building temporary structures to accommodate those who have since been allocated land but are waiting for their permanent houses to be built by Government. IOM spokesperson Mrs Fadzayi Nyamande-Pangeti said they are targeting 224 structures at Runyararo residential area to cater for all households in camps.
“At Runyararo we have completed 79 structures which are habitable and ready for occupation. We have 22 other structures which are already habitable,” she said.
The structures are made of prefabricated timber and zinc roofing sheets, an upgrade from the tarpaulin and canvas tents presently occupied by families in camps.
IOM said there could have made more progress had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides those in camps, there are displaced families that were welcomed and hosted in surrounding rural communities.
They, too, have received temporary shelter from IOM. In Chimanimani and Chipinge, 400 families have received the temporary wooden shelters, leaving 50 off the earmarked figure.
Although there is optimism, there are still concerns. Chairperson of the residents at Nyamatanda Camp Mr Oncemore Ndimiyana said they are now living in fear of the impending rains and thieves who have wreaked havoc in the area. Chimanimani and Chipinge are still smarting from the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, which left 602 dead and about 1600 people injured. Thousands worth of property was destroyed and survivors are still trying to pick up the pieces. Government promised to provide them with decent accommodation and it appears it is coming through.
Many cannot wait to sleep under decent homes they can call their own again, a privilege they last enjoyed more than 900 days ago