By Steve Ephraem
THE road to Rusitu Valley from Chimanimani village is edgy after 20km at Machongwe. The road construction work taking place on the Machongwe-Kurwaisimba road blocks motorists from speeding due to heavy presence of construction vehicles and lose earth.
A bus full of women who were once cheerful before Machongwe sojourns on the earth road as it passes the edges of mountains. The view of Tropical Cyclone Idai damaged Nyahode and Rusitu rivers now takes a toll on their happiness.
The continued view of damaged land and the rare stone piling in the river impacts them negatively. The passengers’ situation is worsened by the heat wave as well as the dust that rises from the lose earth due to road works. Most of them wish they would complete the journey.
The group is made up of none other than members of Women Coalition of Zimbabwe. The team leader is Dr Rita Nyamupinga. They are on a link and tour mission. Members include those who hailed from Bulawayo, Matebeleland North, Harare and Manicaland provinces.
The bus’ first stop is at Hlabiso Primary School at Kurwaisimba. Here, half of the group (Team 1) drops off and the remainder (Team 2) proceeds to Mutsvangwa. The view of Nyahode River at Kopa brings some to tear after witnessing how waterway washed an entire compound, some church buildings and a police post at the place.
At Mutsvangwa Primary School, Team 2 meets the councilor for Chimanimani rural ward 23, Joel Dhumakwezu and women who were affected by Tropical Cyclone Idai and Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Here, survivors reveal that early child marriages are rife owing to the porous border with Mozambique. The border is less than five kilometers from the school.
Men from Mozambique, especially those who work in South Africa, are taking advantage of the girls who lost parents and livelihoods. They flash the girls with Rands to coerce them into marriage.
At Kurwaisimba, women lament of lack of shelter. They claim that most of their homes were destroyed during the cyclone. They also lost fields and have no source of income.
The two teams later meet at Ndima Secondary School. Here women survivors indicate that they are still haunted by the death of their beloved ones and memories of missing ones whom they are not sure if they are still surviving or not.
It is headman Ndima who gives touching remarks on their area’s situation. “It took almost two years for Rusitu Valley to transform into a little Canaan. You can’t imagine that all this investment was destroyed overnight. I don’t know if ever we are going to return to our previous status in our lifetime,” he said.
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe also holds interfaces with women at Machongwe, Charleswood and Ngangu. Survivors also indicate that the issue of shelter is still thorny in their lives. They plead for interventions in that respect.
Concluding the tour, Dr Rita Nyamupinga says that their organisation shall go to the drawing board and see how best it can come up with interventions.
“Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe is made up of various organisations and we shall see who shall do what for the survivors. We can’t give solutions today but we shall return with some intervenes as soon as we mobilise resources,” she said.
The interventions which can be christened “from women to women” shall bring a lot of relief to the female survivors in Chimanimani.