Chipinge still suffers Cyclone Eline damage

By the time she completes the 25km journey to her workplace from where she is dropped by public transport, Dorcas Madhodha (42), a teacher at Rimayi Primary School in Chipinge, is so exhausted that she can hardly cook or do any other chores.

Every month-end she has to walk past Guyo, Madhuku and Chishamisa to get to Manzvire, which is the nearest bus stop, on her way from collecting her salary in Mutare.

She no longer wants to continue teaching at the rural school, and is desperate to be transferred to any place where she does not have to walk such long distances.

When she came to Rimai Primary School in 1998, the transport system in the area was reliable, with the local routes teeming with buses such as Tenda, Matsatse, B and C and Ajay.

These transport operators abandoned the routes after the devastating Tropical Cyclone Eline of 2000 which severely damaged roads and crippled bridges. The area is still in a bad shape – difficult to access using public or private transport.

Madhodha’s story is typical of the life rural villagers in Chipinge endure due to the sorry state of the road network. “We have to foot either 25 km to Manzvire or 35km to Checheche Growth Point when we want to get transport to various destinations,” Arnold Sithole, a teacher at Rimai Secondary School, told The Zimbabwean.

The commuting public is forced to use scotch carts and bicycles, with the odd car appearing in the area but having to endure up to four hours to cover a 30km stretch.

This reporter visited one of the damaged bridges in Manzvire area and spoke to a number of villagers in the area who said the government had failed to rehabilitate the roads.

“This bridge was damaged more than 10 years ago, yet there is no action by the government to rescue us,” said Munoda Murimbechi from Manzvire.

Many teachers and nurses have left the area due to the poor state of roads and other infrastructure.

“We used to have the best staff here but as you might have heard, most of the teachers have transferred to Takwirira, Checheche or Vheneka, schools which are located on the Chiredzi highway,” lamented Sithole.

Most boreholes in the area are either broken down or have been vandalised, forcing villagers to travel long distances in search of water.

Efforts by humanitarian organisations such as Plan International, Lutheran Development Services and Mercy Corps to increase water sources in the area by drilling boreholes are only a drop in the ocean as many areas remain unattended.

Villagers also struggle to access clinics and hospital. This has affected many patients, including HIV positive people who need to frequently visit hospitals to access anti-retroviral drugs and other drugs for opportunistic infections and this, according to the villagers, has resulted in many patients dying at home.

Pregnant mothers are also said to be delivering at home due to the long distance they have to travel, on foot or using ox-drawn carts, a trend that has driven up maternal and prenatal deaths.

Zekias Sithole, a councillor from the area, appealed to the District Development Fund (DDF) to help reclaim the damaged roads to make travelling easier.

An official from DDF, Lazarus Magodo, said they were facing financial challenges as they were not being adequately funded by the government.

“We have been doing our best to repair the roads, but most of them have deteriorated over the years because we sometimes cannot not afford to buy fuel to power the road maintenance vehicles,” he said.

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