Building resilience to natural disasters, Zimbabwe on a tipping point


Although the effects of climate change-induced disasters with a combination of those cyclones are being experienced in a number of the Sadc countries like Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa, Zimbabwe is called upon to invest in local resilient programmes in order to cushion its citizens against climate shocks and impacts.

guest column: Peter Makwanya

Whether it’s cyclone Dineo or Eline, the overall infrastructure development for national resilience is paramount to the Zimbabwean people, first and foremost.

Yes, climate change and cyclones alike are global problems, but they require local initiatives.

The manner in which these cyclone-induced natural disasters have taken their toll in many parts of Zimbabwe are threatening to reach a point of no return.

It is true that these unfolding events are taking place in neighbouring countries, but as a nation, we cannot be seen basking in that solace or glory, to say the least.

What have we done as a country to cushion the nation against disasters? How much have we invested as country to counter these natural effects and phenomena?

Or we always wait until the deed has been done in order to hide behind the finger, that if these events are currently unfolding in South Africa and Mozambique, then, it doesn’t concern us.

Surely, that is the highest form of ignorance that a nation can invest in.

Zimbabwe has been known to have ageing infrastructure ever since.

These include poorly serviced road networks with gapping potholes, resilient starved water sources (dams and lakes) as well poorly cited residential areas and sub-standard bridges.

All these have heightened the risk of succumbing under the threat of natural disasters.

That our road network is bad is common knowledge. That our towns and city councils have been presiding over pothole and gully-infested roads is also not a secret, and declaring them a national disaster this lately, surely it makes us the laughing stock of the region, if not the world.

And celebrating that the obvious and the most common thing has been declared a national disaster makes us caricatures of ourselves.

What is important is not just declaring that our roads are a national disaster! Then what about it? What has been enshrined in the vision of the country?

Of course, there are specific dangers facing our national infrastructure, but what measures have been taken to prepare for the emerging weather extremes, of today and the future.

Is our national infrastructure meeting the current best practices and safety standards?

Strong climate change adaptation, mitigation and national climate policy networks are the cornerstone of a nation’s resilience and sustainability.

Paying lip service to these aspects, then climate change and natural disasters, will pose a major threat to national security.

It is easy to neglect the country’s infrastructure, but very expensive to repair against a background of potential hazards.

The country’s infrastructure, which has been wallowing under perpetual neglect, poor servicing and planning, has been pushed deeply into additional stress.

As we speak, climate change has heightened the country’s flood patterns and, as a result, human lives and those of the livestock have been lost.

What resilient measures does this country have in place to fight these natural phenomena?

We are also witnessing as a country, less and less investment in climate resilient activities to safeguard the nation against unpredictable climate or cyclone-induced disasters.

We still have, in our society, people who want to always play Tomfoolery with the safety of others and their livelihoods.

As a country, we have also witnessed cases of poor and erratic water management approaches that are not in line with the 21st century benchmarks.

We have redundant and arrogant water bodies that have been basking in failure far too long.

Dam walls have collapsed, homes have been over flooded, bridges have been swept away and water-borne diseases are also a common recurrence, all happening in one country.

Although natural disasters can happen anytime, this does not mean that we should sit and wait for them to strike, then we start planning.

Durable infrastructure is expensive to construct and maintain, but they are a necessity.

Sustainable and resilient infrastructure will remain a pipedream in a corruption-riddled society like ours.

Our current infrastructure has not been designed to withstand the effects of natural disasters and climate shocks, so as to bring future benefits to the nation.

The country’s drainage system is poor and substandard. Therefore, waterlogging becomes a common source for water-borne diseases and mosquito breeding places.

What we need is a resilient infrastructure in a background of a rapid changing climate.

The little available financial resources at the country’s disposal have not been for infrastructure resilience, but have been used to enhance political self interests.

The rapid-changing climate has threatened many livelihoods, destroyed the environment, contributed to homelessness, poverty and forced migrations.

Instead of directing adaptation efforts from within, the least developed countries, Zimbabwe included, have invested all their faith and hope in National Adaptation Programmes of Action, which is internationally-funded, but funds have not been forthcoming.

As we speak, Zimbabwe is experiencing internally-displaced people, who can best be described as climate refugees, in their own country.

If Mozambique and South Africa have climate refugees too, that’s their own baby to nurse, as we have more than enough climate misfortunes to handle here.

Right now, we have a series and pockets of mini-Chingwizis, because of poor planning and lack of vision.

Therefore, if we intend to have a sustainable future that we want, then the country should invest all its efforts towards the resilience of its infrastructure and its institutions, first and foremost.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: