George Maponga in Bikita
Thousands of Cyclone Idai flood victims here yesterday started receiving humanitarian assistance from Government and well-wishers, with Zanu-PF National Political Commissar Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje (Retired) appealing to donors to prioritise infrastructural development.
Bikita was one of the four districts in Masvingo ravaged by the cyclone that left more than 300 families in the district homeless and more than 4 000 households affected.
Aid distribution to cyclone-hit areas intensified here yesterday with Rtd Lt Gen Rugeje handing over blankets, maize-meal and various other foodstuffs donated by people from the district.
Rtd Lt Gen Rugeje, who hails from Bikita, sourced the donations after hearing of the plight of flood victims in his home area.
Speaking after handing over the donation to Bikita district administrator Mr Bernard Hadzirabwi at his offices, Rtd Lt Gen Rugeje said it was critical to assist the flood victims with building materials.
“My appeal to Government and other well-wishers is to prioritise donation of building material such as cement, door frames and window panes because it is important to first have shelter,” he said.
“Some of the families might not necessarily value sugar or cooking oil when they don’t have roofs over their heads.”
Rt Lt Gen Rugeje said tents were not sustainable in the long term.
He paid tribute to the corporate world and individual well-wishers for coming to the aid of the cyclone victims, saying the assistance will help them to quickly rebuild their lives.
“I am also here (in Bikita) in my capacity as NPC of Zanu-PF because there is close linkage between the ruling party and Government,” he said.
“We have managed to mobilise a lot of materials in Harare for the victims and these materials such as cooking oil, 10 tonnes of maize, soap etc will get here once we organise adequate transport to ferry them. I have only brought a few of the items to help, but more will be coming in the next few days.”
Rtd Lt Gen Rugeje, who has a history of philanthropic work in his home district and beyond through building classroom blocks at Mupakwa Primary School, donating soccer uniforms to schools and mobilising medicines for health institutions, particularly Silveira Mission Hospital, pledged to source more donations until the situation normalises.
Today he will hand over some of the donations to the cyclone victims across Bikita.
Mr Hadzirabwi paid tribute to Rtd Lt Gen Rugeje, saying more donations were required to avert a humanitarian crisis in Bikita.
“The number of people affected by the cyclone here will go up from over 300 people that are completely homeless and over 4 000 households affected if assessment results from five wards in Mazungunye and Bidzi are factored in. We are still waiting for data from those areas,” he said.
The rampaging tropical cyclone killed five people here and also ravaged infrastructure such as schools, roads and bridges.
Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs Cde Ezra Chadzamira on Wednesday made a passionate appeal for aid from well-wishers to help victims in Bikita, Masvingo, Gutu and Zaka to avert a serious humanitarian crisis.