Nearly 200 dead but scant sign of national mourning in Zimbabwe

Africa

Two days of national mourning in Zimbabwe came to an end at the weekend with little sign of a nation struck by grief after nearly 200 people died in the aftermath of cyclone Idai.

Saturday and Sunday were declared as days of national mourning by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. National flags flown at half-mast were the only sign of respect by the state accorded to victims and survivors.

No state activities were organised and radio and television stations appeared to go on 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.”

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

A number of residents in Chimanimani expressed how their disappointment at 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 dismissed the claims and said 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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