Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
FOUR years after they were swept from their homes by Cyclone Dineo-induced floods, the resettled villagers in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North Province are now the envy of many in the district, with their eye-catching urban style homes even attracting the attention of expatriate Zimbabweans working in South Africa.
Villagers of Maphili, Thamula, Mahlasi, Mathaba and Mbamba were moved to settlements in Sawudweni and Tshino villages after their homes were destroyed by water from the overflowing Gwayi River at the beginning of 2017.
The three-roomed houses, comprised of two bedrooms and a lounge, now occupy a unique space in one particular section of Tshino, where the distinctive red bricks used for their construction have brought a unique township feel to what was an area dominated by homes built using mud and thatch.
When Sunday News visited the area recently, construction crews from the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works were breaking ground in Sawudweni, where more houses are expected to be built. Tsholotsho Rural District Council chairman, Councillor Esau Siwela said although construction had been slowed down by Covid-19, more villagers would be allocated completed houses soon.
“Initially the target was to build over 319 houses but so far, I think 200 or so have been done. Construction has started again so I’m sure the remaining houses will also soon be ready for occupation. The problem that we have faced over the last year is that Covid-19 has slowed down things,” he said.
Clr Siwela said although some villagers still clung to their old homes in flood-prone areas, most were resigned to the fact that the area was good only for agricultural purposes and not permanent residence. The perennial water problems that plagued the areas where villagers were resettled, would also soon be resolved, he said.
“The villagers have said that they would love to keep their old fields because they are fertile and rich. So, they go there just to plant their crops and harvest but, in the meantime, they would be living in these houses that are built to modern specifications and standards.
“The water situation is one that we are aware of and we have pegged a few areas near their houses and already some boreholes have been drilled. There is also another borehole near their secondary school. More still needs to be done but the number of water sources is going to continue increasing,” he said.
A resettled villager, Mr John Ndlovu (80), said they had lost a lot in past floods, which was why they were determined to make their new homes work.
“Going back there for some of us was never going to be an option. When it rains heavily and the water rises, one has to hope that they do not have any children around. Imagine if you have nine or 10 children, how many are you going to put on your back and cross with? We lost livestock so you can understand our happiness at finally getting nice houses where we feel safe,” he said.
Another resettled villager, Ms Senzeni Mpofu (45), said after a rocky start to life in their urban style homes, they had gradually adapted to their new way of life and come to appreciate their changed circumstances.
“The floods made us leave our homes in 2019 and we came to live here in 2020 when people from Department of Public Works started construction.
“This is much better than what we had and at least now we have somewhere to hide when there’s flooding. Our livestock is still in the old village side so the men go and stay there because that’s where our pastures are,” Ms Mpofu said.