The Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) recently handed over to government a 19km stretch of road linking Chimanimani and Chipinge districts which it rehabilitated after the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai. The cyclone affected the districts during the first week of March 2019. Junction Gate-Kopa road was no longer passable making it impossible for disaster relief to reach affected people. The two districts were the worst affected in the country as several homes and roads infrastructure were destroyed. More than 300 people were killed. Several are still missing.

Mayors being introduced to the Minister July Moyo and the Chimanimani and Chipinge residents who attended the handover ceremony

Kopa, which is part of Chimanimani and situated at the confluence of Chipita, Rusitu and Nyahode rivers experienced something that cannot be explained in any language. One just has to visit the place and see for oneself. Maybe just an attempt to describe; a whole suburb with an estimated 100 houses was destroyed by floods and more than 200 people swept away. There is no sign that there was such a suburb in that place. Where the suburb used be, there are now several huge boulders, some of them are more than 30 tons. Some of the survivors that the Urban Voice’s Chris Musekiwa talked to reported that only less than 20 people survived from the suburb.

The UCAZ President, Clr Josiah Makombe who is also the Mayor of Gweru on 11 May 2019 handed over the Junction Gate-Kopa road to the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Hon. July Moyo at a ribbon cutting ceremony done at a makeshift bridge constructed by UCAZ across Rusitu River. Rusitu River forms the boundary between Chipinge and Chimanimani. The cyloneinduced floods left the bridge which links the two districts, severely damaged.

The ceremony was witnessed by Chief Director responsible for urban local authorities Ms Erica Jones, Manicaland Provincial Administrator, Chipinge and Chimanimani District Administrators and other senior government officials, traditional Chiefs Ndima, Mutema, Muusha and Ngorima, mayors, council chairpersons, town clerks and secretaries from urban local authorities, and Chipinge and Chimanimani District Councils’ Chief Executive Officers, Chairpersons, councillors and hundreds of people from surrounding communities. In his handover remarks, the UCAZ President, said that he was pleased handover of part of the Junction Gate-Kopa Road which was rehabilitated by UCAZ. He said that this followed a response to the government call for assistance in the wake of the Cyclone Idai devastation in Chipinge and Chimanimani.

“Transportation of disaster relief to survivors of this calamity were being hampered by the roads and bridges which had been destroyed by the cyclone,” said Clr Makombe adding that the opening of the road was essential to reach the survivors.

“The road, 19 km in length has been rehabilitated and is now passable complete with a temporary bridge across Rusitu River to link Chipinge and Kopa in Chimanimani. As you can see, Honourable Minister, we can now reach Kopa. The road might not be up to the required standards but it is now passable and we are happy to hand it over to you Honourable Minister,” said the UCAZ President. He informed the Minister that all the 32 urban local authorities had contributed plant and equipment as well as personnel and funding for the operation. He added that the project had demonstrated what urban local authorities could do for the country if given resources. He implored the Minister to support local authorities whenever they approached government for funds or support to acquire service delivery equipment.

“The urban local authorities would like to join the government of Zimbabwe in mourning the departed and wish the survivors a speedy recovery,” concluded the UCAZ President. In response the Minster paid tribute to urban local
authorities. “I honour you because we are gathered here on account of you,” said the Minister. “Today you did what has not been done before, to gather the whole of Zimbabwe because in the cities there are people from all regions of Zimbabwe and they are the ones who pay rates and made this possible,” he said. The Minister added that the handover ceremony had attracted the interest of foreign organisations.

Minister Moyo had in his entourage officials from Direct Aid, a Kuwait government international development department. He said that the officials wanted to know how they could assist the affected communities. “Today is an important day because it brings people to Chimanimani and Chipinge to see what happened here because this has never happened before. You have experienced and survived this calamity and it is an experience that has taught you something, said the Minister.

He thanked Mayors and Town Clerks adding that he would inform the State President that he had spent the day with Mayors and Town Clerks in Chimanimani and Chipinge showing love the people of the area.