HEAVY rains and whirlwinds have left a trail of destruction in Matabeleland South province, with key institutions including schools, churches, retail shops and a clinic being destroyed, while a Grade 4 pupil in Umzingwane district was washed away as she crossed a flooded stream.

The downpours, which are accompanied by wind, lightning, hailstorm and flooding, were expected to continue pounding Matabeleland South, Masvingo, southern parts of Midlands, Manicaland and Mashonaland East provinces from yesterday until tomorrow, a Meteorological Services Department (MSD) rainfall alert stated.

A Southern Eye snap survey showed that property worth thousands of dollars was destroyed since last weekend in Matabeleland South in the wake of the violent storms.

A Grade 4 female pupil from Nswazi Primary School in Umzingawane was washed away in a stream on her way from school in the company of friends.

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“The incident left the community devastated because the stream is not that big and it has no name. Losing such young life was very sad. As she tried to cross the stream when several of her friends had done so, she was unfortunately washed away and her body was discovered later floating downstream,” said Nomore Ndlela, a villager in the area.

At Shashi Secondary School in Beitbridge, two teachers’ cottages, a computer laboratory and a classroom were destroyed by strong winds that came after rains had pounded the area.

“The situation has left the teachers and students stranded. Currently, the teachers have sought temporary accommodation at homesteads of parents with children at the school. Other teachers have sought shelter at their counterparts’ houses at the primary school. Computers were destroyed and there is urgent need for government to intervene in renovating the buildings,” a teacher at the school told Southern Eye.

About 30 electricity power poles were also destroyed in the vicinity of the school, thereby affecting power supplies. Shashi Clinic had a solar field which was also destroyed.

AFM, Zaoga, Lutheran and ZCC church buildings in the Beitbridge ward 8 Maramani cluster area had their roofs blown away.

Lifias Muleya, the Matabeleland South provincial education director, yesterday said he was still receiving reports from district officers.

“Districts are still compiling reports on the destruction done to schools by the heavy rains. The reports will detail damage at specific schools. So it will only be when I have received these that I can issue a comprehensive report. However, I can confirm that there are several schools that have been affected so far,” he said.

Beitbridge West MP Ruth Baloyi called on the nation to assist the Shashi community.

“The destruction was (quite extensive). I am appealing to well-wishers to chip in with materials that can be used to rehabilitate the buildings of key institutions that were destroyed. When I go to Parliament, I am also going to raise the matter so that we get support from government and well-wishers. The school authorities at Shashi Secondary have also reported to their line ministry and so we must soon start to get assistance,” she said.

Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele said: “I can confirm that we received the report on the destruction of buildings at Shashi Secondary School, shops and clinic. Some homes of villagers around that area were also destroyed. There were no injuries that were recorded on people in that area. It was just destruction to infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Local Government minister July Moyo has called on the Department of Civil Protection to embark on awareness campaigns following the MSD alert message.

“Accordingly, all provincial and district development co-ordinators are to ensure all civil protection structures at sub-national levels, including schools, are aware of this heavy rainfall alert. Econet is also sending reminders on safety precautions through the SMS messaging platform,” he said in a statement.

Moyo advised people to minimise outdoor activities or travelling in areas forecast to receive heavy rainfall and those who live on river banks, islands and foothills to move to safer places.

He cautioned motorists, pupils and members of the public not to cross flooded rivers and to mitigate lightning strikes by avoiding getting into contact with metal objects and standing under isolated tall trees.

The minister urged communities to work as teams and take care of child-headed families, older persons and other vulnerable groups.
Moyo said mining syndicates should not carry out activities in major rivers and disused mines because the soils were now fragile and could easily collapse.