It never rains but pours for cash-strapped Zimbabwe
Cyclone Idai could not have come at a worse time for the country’s crippled economy, with the cost of damages to fuel supply, infrastructure and exports already in the millions
Zimbabwe is counting the losses from the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai, amid indications that the economic and financial loss from the disaster will run into tens of millions of dollars.
Idai, which also ravaged Mozambique and Malawi, has officially become the worst cyclone disaster ever to hit southern Africa, with about 150 confirmed dead so far and up to 300 others missing in Zimbabwe alone.
In Mozambique and Malawi, the death toll stands at around 250 and 60 respectively.
The disaster could not have come at a worse time for Zimbabwe’s crippled economy as the country is experiencing its worst economic performance in a decade.
Lack of adequate resources has meant that rescue efforts have been limited, leading to deaths that could have been avoided.
Businesses have also lost big, as the hardest-hit areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge have plantations of tea, coffee, macadamia nuts, sugarcane and other products.
Tanganda Tea, which exports tea and coffee, said it was still counting the costs of the damage before it could reveal figures.
Chimanimani is also a prime tourist route and hundreds of prospective visitors have had to cancel bookings.
ZimTrade CEO Allan Majuru said horticultural projects earmarked for export had been destroyed by the cyclone, saying actual figures of losses were still being tallied.
To date, government has committed Z$50m (about US$15m) for rescue efforts but the actual cost of damage is much more.
Speaking to Business Day, finance minister Mthuli Ncube said government was calculating the impact of the cyclone on the entire economy, although he could not give the actual cost.
“This is something that is work in progress but we need time to come up with the exact figure. Obviously there is a cost to the infrastructure such as bridges and buildings that have been destroyed, as well as people properties, livestock and so on.
“However, we also need to measure the whole impact on the broader economy by looking at all the various sectors that have been affected. The economic impact is certainly severe.
“We need to engage various experts to calculate the actual costs.
Harare-based economic John Robertson put the financial cost at “several millions”.
“The figure is certainly difficult to guess at the moment because a full assessment has to be done but we are obviously talking of several millions,” he said.
Economists say the biggest cost to government will be in rebuilding destroyed roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, as well as electricity and communications infrastructure.
Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped government has already been struggling to repair roads that were built pre-independence.
Damages caused at Beira are also set to negatively affect Zimbabwe which pumps its fuel and natural gas from the Companhiado De Pipeline Mozambique-Zimbabwe (CPMZ).
The control room at CPMZ in Beira was damaged by the cyclone, affecting the pumping of fuel to Feruka oil refinery in Mutare, the capital of Manicaland province.
Energy and power development minister Joram Gumbo confirmed that the situation poses a fresh problem in the delivery of fuel, which has been in short supply for several months.
There was panic in Harare at the weekend with motorists worried that diesel and petrol would once again run out, as queues that had tapered off in the past few days resurfaced at service stations.
One of the country’s major fuel suppliers, Total Zimbabwe, gave notice of possible shortage of petrol and diesel in a memo to clients.
In the letter, Total Zimbabwe said the company received information that the landing stage in Beira had been damaged, while the pumping house roof was blustered away.
“Conditions of the pipeline from Beira to Zimbabwe is yet to be established and we still await NOIC (National Oil Company ) update on the same.
“Given the above, the stocks in Masasa may not be replenished in due time as required and this is likely to put pressure on the supply chain,” said Total.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, which oversees supply of grain products, warned that bread shortages were also looming as close to 100 truckloads of Zimbabwe’s wheat imports were holed up in Beira after Cyclone Idai damaged infrastructure and made most roads impassable.
Zimbabwe imports a large chunk of its wheat owing to low production. This means that as a result of the calamity on Beira, the country may yet again experience bread shortages which had become common in the past few months.
Power utility Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) said its electricity network in Manicaland province had been extensively damaged.
As a result, Chimanimani has experienced a blackout which will take weeks if not months to restore.
Companies in Manicaland province appealed to the government for temporary relief measures such as duty-free fuel after power supplies were disrupted by the cyclone.
Several companies in the area have indicated that they will not be able to operate as a result of the power blackout.
Desperate rescue efforts
In a clear sign of the Zimbabwean government’s lack of capacity, rescue efforts in worst-hit districts of Chimanimani and Chipinge have been hampered by lack of resources.
There were reports that mass graves had been dug up in the Chimanimani as there were no coffins for the dead.
Mortuaries in the area are also not functioning owing to the cut in power supply.
There were reports that about 300 dead bodies were feared to have been floated by flood waters to neighbouring Mozambique.
On Friday, information minister Monica Mutsvangwa raised alarm over possible outbreak of diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
“People have no access to clean water, we now fear that they may contract these water borne diseases as well as other deadly diseases such as malaria.”
Local government minister July Moyo said the hardest-hit province of Manicaland was “in a disaster situation”, adding that rescue teams “were trying to move closer to where the people are but we don’t have enough trucks that can go there”.
He also confirmed there were fears that up to 300 dead bodies had floated to Mozambique.
“The distress calls started coming from Kopa in Rutsito after the two rivers converged and burst. I understand that there were bodies that were floating.
“Some had floated into Mozambique and some of the peasants in Mozambique were calling our people saying we believe that these bodies are coming from Zimbabwe, the total number went as far as 300. Some of our soldiers were going on foot to assess the damage.”
The EU announced “an initial emergency aid package of €3.5m” to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi for what it termed “logistical support to reach affected people, emergency shelters, hygiene, sanitation and health care”.
Britain also pledged up to £6m ($7.96m) in aid.
Emmerson Mnangagwa visited Chimanimani to distribute donated aid and so far, SA, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, China, US and the UAE are some of the other countries that have helped.
There were fears that the donated aid would be abused by the government or ruling Zanu-PF party officials but Mnangagwa promised full transparency.