ZIMBABWE is yet to heal from the Cyclone Idai wounds and yet another tropical Cyclone dubbed Cyclone Kenneth is headed our way. In March this year, the country was hit by cyclone Idai which left hundreds of people dead, thousands others injured and displaced.
The mere thought of another cyclone coming to Zimbabwe right now brings a chilling and horrific reminder of the deaths and horror the people of Chimanani, Chipinge and some parts of Masvingo encountered.
However, there is a demon called confusion which is deeply embed in our ministries and government departments which urgently need exorcism and prayers. The confusion and complacency is very rampart in government institutions responsible for disaster preparedness and management.
The Meteorological department and the Civil Protection department have proven beyond reasonable doubt that they can’t both work as communicators of disaster related information. One of them has to stand down to pave way for sanity and progress.
Early in March this year, when Cyclone Idai struck the nation, the same confusion also reared its ugly head as the ministry of information, CPU and Met Department propagated conflicting statements which to some extent buried the emergency message, resulting in the loss of lives and properties after Idai pounced on Zimbabwe unawares.
The same demon of confusion seem to be manifesting itself again this time around. Both the CPU and Met Department have in the past 24 hours issued conflicting statements regarding the impending Cyclone Kenneth and the nation is divided as whose gospel they should believe.
It is against this background that Zimbabwe needs to adopt a sound and reliable Disaster communication strategy which is centralised and effective. All departments and organisations whose operations are directly linked to climate and natural phenomena should directly communicate to at least the CPU to avoid a parallel system which will only result in lives being lost.
In as much as communication is the mandate of the ministry of information and broadcasting services, issues related to disasters, man made or natural, should be handled in a manner that breeds confidence and unity of purpose. A divided nation cannot combat a disaster and it all starts with communication.
At a time like, this government should be concentrating on evacuating people in the areas where the Cyclone is likely to hit. We can’t have a repeat of Cyclone Idai this time around. We must have learnt our lesson from our past mistakes.
It is always a danger to be reactive, rather work on modalities to ensure our disaster preparedness mechanisms are well in order. It is never too late for government to come with a sound communication plan for disaster awareness.