Trapped in flood zone: Runyararo West families await promised relocation

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File picture of a house in Runyararo West

Courage Dutiro

Masvingo- As the country is still reeling from the recent Cyclone Belal, 23 households in Runyararo West brace for another episode of having their furniture soaked in floodwater, as well as temporary displacement, with a permanent solution continuously eluding them for years and counting.
A statement released by Zimcast, a climate service centre last week indicated that Cyclone Belal was to bring rains to Zimbabwe over a few days as it drew moisture from the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
“We now have tropical cyclone Belal, East of Madagascar. Belal is currently a category one cyclone and is expected to move South-East, away from Madagascar. Belal may affect rains for Zimbabwe over the next few days, as it draws moisture from the ITCZ,” read part of the statement.
This may not be the last cyclone, storm or any other weather condition that will bring heavy rains to Masvingo over the next few months that characterize the rainy season, a situation which has become a curse for the 23 households in Runyararo West whose houses have been affected by floods for years now.
During the 2022-23 rainy season due to fear that the houses may collapse, Masvingo City Council evacuated the affected residents to the District Development Fund (DDF) site as a temporary measure.
“Last season, those residents were temporarily moved to the District Development Fund Training Centre, but a long-lasting solution is required,” reads part of the minutes of a Masvingo City full council meeting held in November 2023.
For the past few years, flash floods have repeatedly brought them sorrow, with no relief in sight as one administration after another keeps coming and leaving townhouse.
They were allocated stands at the confluence of two small streams in the area, with the situation recently being worsened by construction activities in Victoria Ranch
Sources say at the time when the stands were allocated, in the mid-2000s, an engineer who was working at townhouse advised against it, which fell on deaf ears, although he had predicted the impending disaster due to the presence of water bodies nearby.
“As we speak, that issue is on the desk of the relevant minister, although it is taking time due to unknown reasons. Council has to make it lucrative for them to successfully relocate those people in terms of compensation, otherwise it is their fault in the first place,” the source said.
To date, five mayors, namely Femius Chakabuda (the late), Hubert Fidze, Collen Maboke, Shantiel Chiwara, though short-lived, and now Aleck Tabe, have failed to resolve the issue, but all eyes are on the Tabe administration on what it can do to save these families from the anxiety of having their houses flooded with each coming rainy season.
To improve the lives of affected families, Masvingo City Mayor Aleck Tabe said that following a council resolution, they have chosen a suitable site near the Gomba car park for their resettlement.
“We had a resolution as council that we have to relocate those families to a suitable site. We have already identified the land; we picked the place around the car park near Gomba area as the relocation site for the victims. Near the site, we are also going to have a secondary school that will service people from Victoria Ranch and Runyararo West,” said Tabe.
However, to ensure complete success, Tabe said they are seeking the valuable partnership of the relevant government ministry.
“Our next stage is to engage the relevant Government ministry. As council, we can avail land to the 23 affected properties but we also need assistance from the government in terms of building structures and compensation,” said Tabe.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) Board Chairperson Thomas Mbetu attributed the perennial problem to erratic allocation of stands by the local authority.
“As MURRA we are deeply saddened in regards to the 23 or so houses which have been affected by flooding. We attribute this problem to wrong allocation of stands on wetlands by Masvingo City Council.
“Secondly, we attribute this problem to blocked drainage and we call upon Masvingo City Council to firstly relocate those families as promised and to clear the drainage system,” Mbetu said.

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