As we rebuild parts of SADC we must ask: Are these disasters manmade?

Residents look at a road that collapsed in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth, at Wimbe village in Pemba, Mozambique, on Monday (April 29, 2019). Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Residents look at a road that collapsed in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth, at Wimbe village in Pemba, Mozambique, on Monday (April 29, 2019). Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

The devastating weather conditions experienced in some parts of Southern African Development Community in the past two months have sent shockwaves across the region.

South Africans recently woke up to disasters as a result of flooding in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. This left at least 70 people dead, with thousands without homes and damage to property.

Read: Frustration mounts in Mozambique over food, water shortages after cyclone

President Cyril Ramaphosa should be commended for cutting short a state visit to Egypt in order to assess the damage, then immediately mobilising the required financial resources from Treasury towards relief in the two provinces.

Meanwhile, the South African Cities Network is reported to having said that South Africa’s major cities are “ill-prepared” to deal with the effect of harsh weather changes.

Casting one’s eyes beyond the country’s borders, Cyclone Idai left a catastrophic trail in parts of Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. More than 1 000 people were reported dead and thousands displaced.

As aid workers struggle to reach some areas, the World Bank has estimated that more than $2 billion (about R29 billion) is going to be needed to repair the damage caused by the tropical storm.

Cyclone Kenneth reportedly hit Comoros, leaving at least seven people dead en route to Mozambique, where the death toll has surged to 38 people. Even though there were forecasts that the cyclone might also make its way to southern Tanzania, the country has so for been spared.

During a visit to Mozambique in September 2009, Maputo and Matola in particular, it was evident that the country was still picking up the pieces in the wake of the brutal civil war and the recurrent floods over the years.

This was on the occasion of the Southern African Inter-Municipal Sports Association games, during my time at the defunct Aganang Local Municipality, Limpopo Province. The games – which included sporting codes like netball, soccer, athletics, chess, darts, volleyball and table tennis – were mostly held at the Eduardo Mondlane University grounds, down Julius Nyerere Avenue in Maputo.

Liga Muçulmana de Maputo and CD Costa do Sol fields also hosted some of the activities, although our base was in Matola.

A visit to Maputo was definitely not going to be complete without walking down Samora Machel Avenue, making a turn on Eduardo Mondlane Avenue or a stroll along Patrice Lumumba Avenue.

While at it, one had to visit the street markets to spend some Meticais and sightseeing. The accommodation we were staying in also offered venue hire. As such we were invited to witness a Mozambican-style wedding and hospitality during our stay.

And in September, these games will be held in Lusaka, Zambia, with no less than 100 municipalities in the SADC region meeting in Lusaka, Zambia.

There is such natural beauty in this region, which also has so much potential for tourism.

And 10 years on, which also marks my 10 years in local government, it is hoped that the $13 million granted by the United Nations will assist President Filipe Nyusi and his people in rebuilding the country, especially after the two recent major catastrophes.

But were these disasters truly natural, or did man play a role?

The time is now for our leaders to wake up to the reality of climate change, so as not to pay a bigger price in future.

My thoughts are with the many Malawians, Malagasy, and Zimbabweans I met through my studies and work with the South African Revenue Service, the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa and also the Tanzanians I continue interacting with through Twitter.

My condolences to all the families who have lost their loved ones and strength to those who are displaced. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

@MaleselaB is a public relations strategist and President of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (@1PRISA). He writes in his personal capacity.


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