Nearly 200 dead but scant sign of national mourning in Zimbabwe

A man searches for missing family members with his dog on March 18 2019 in Ngangu township, Chimanimani, eastern Zimbabwe, after the area was hit by cyclone Idai.
A man searches for missing family members with his dog on March 18 2019 in Ngangu township, Chimanimani, eastern Zimbabwe, after the area was hit by cyclone Idai.
Image: Zinyange Auntony / AFP

Zimbabwe ended two days of national mourning at the weekend with little sign of a nation struck by grief after nearly 200 people died in the aftermath of cyclone Idai.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared Saturday and Sunday as days of national mourning.

National flags flown at half-mast were the only sign of respect by the state accorded to victims and survivors.

There were no state activities organised and radio and television stations appeared to continue with their normal programming. Local government minister July Moyo said individuals had to take the two days of mourning to reflect on the tragedy at family level.

“Government is not necessarily spearheading the two days of national mourning. I think the president’s intention was to have people reflecting at family level and also use the days to source aid for the survivors,” he said.

“The only thing that the government did is to fly our national flags at half-mast and for us to work on a Sunday in respect of both the victims and survivors. But there is no specific program conducted by government.”

James Mupfumi, a lecturer and director at the Centre for Research and Development, said that on a national day of mourning the state broadcaster was showing cartoons.

On Sunday morning, Mnangagwa attended at a church service at Malbereign Methodist church in Harare.

Some residents in Chimanimani said they were disappointed that the tragedy did not appear to resonate with those outside the area.

“We have not heard of anything that the government has set aside for the two days. But we are mourning our friends and relatives who have died and others who are still trapped,” said Veronica Mabuto of Skyline in Chimanimani.

Chipinge ward 14 councilor Briton Nyasine, who saw his house destroyed, also said that communities felt neglected. “It is our tradition that we mourn together as a family, community and nation when disaster strikes. But right now, we feel alone,” said Nyasine.

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa however claimed they were continuously airing programmes both on television and radio on the natural disaster.

Spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change Jacob Mafume said government had not shown enough moral support to the relatives of the hundreds of people who had died.

“This is not a two-day mourning event ... The national TV and newspapers spend more time mourning one person than they do hundreds and hundreds of people. We see a government attending to international meetings as if everything is business as usual,” he said.

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