THE government yesterday dispatched at least 11 ministers to flood-hit areas in Tsholotsho almost a month after disaster struck in the Matabeleland North district.
This followed revelations by Southern Eye nearly a fortnight ago that flood victims in some areas had not received any assistance from the government. Some officials reportedly visited areas such as Mapili and Mbamba to assess the damage, but never returned to the villages as highly anticipated.
Inevitably people started comparing the government’s response to a similar tragedy at the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam basin in Masvingo where thousands of families were displaced by flooding.
Donations, although far from being enough, have been pouring in for the flood victims there after the government declared Tokwe-Mukosi a disaster area to help mobilise local and international donors.
On the other hand there was no mention of Tsholotsho, which was completely forgotten. Last week, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo told this publication that as far he was concerned there was no emergency in Tsholotsho because his ministry had not received reports to that effect. Meanwhile, government officials from Tsholotsho were taking Southern Eye to task accusing the paper of misrepresenting facts.
The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) insisted that it had reached everyone who needed assistance, an assertion which is obviously wrong.
There is absolutely no doubt that the Tsholotsho floods were poorly handled and the government officials certainly need to learn from this episode instead of vilifying the media.
We have been made to understand that CPU officials in Matabeleland North are under strict instructions not to provide private media organisations with information related to the floods. Such thinking only belongs to the dark ages.
The attitude of the government officials who ordered the gag on the private media is brazenly criminal. They do not deserve to be occupying those offices. There is no doubt that lives have been disrupted in Tsholotsho and we cannot rule out deaths as a result of people with chronic illnesses being cut off from health institutions.
We are glad that Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo was part of the delegation to Tsholotsho and hope that his influence will help enlighten his colleagues on the power of information.