Veld fire victims finally get help

Veld fire victims finally get help

04 August 2011

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Zimbabwe — Villagers, who were left homeless in the Hurungwe fire that swept through the area like a plague, could not contain their joy when aid arrived.

Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Paurina Mpariwa came to their assistance at the nick of time when they had lost all hope of recovering from the disaster that ravaged their area.

A fire recently swept through Matau communal lands, some 20 kilometres outside of Magunje growth point leaving the area with nothing but burnt shells of houses and a desolate landscape.

The majority of the victims of the blaze were women who were at home when the fire broke out.

One of the victims of the inferno, Daniel Manangazire, 31, narrated how the fire swept through his homestead and left him and his sibling with no food.

Manangazire said that he sustained minor burns while trying to douse the fire that was fast approaching his homestead.

“The fire started some 500 metres from my house when Tedious Mangwai’s wife was burning maize stocks at her garden. On the day there was a lot of wind and in no time the fire started spreading to other parts of the area,” Manangazire said.

He said that the fire caught onto his thatched kitchen and spread to his tobacco barn which fortunately was empty.

“Everything that was in the kitchen was burnt to ash. We were left with no food because it was all stored in there,” he said.

Manangazire also said that fellow villagers who were spared this unfortunate fate took it upon themselves to take him and his siblings in as they now had nowhere to sleep and no clothes to wear.

Bessy Mugwagwa, 31, from the Murumbika village recounted how the fire swept through her homestead leaving nothing in sight.

“I noticed the fire when it was near the borehole and went to assist others who were trying to put it out,” she told the Daily News

When the fire started approaching her house she ran forward but there was little that she could do to stop it.

Mugwagwa nearly wept when she said of how her only daughter who is in Grade 7 got burnt on the hand while running away from the fire.

“When it got to my homestead it caught on to a tree. When the wind blew in the direction of the homestead it spread to the house and goats pen.

“Luckily, no one was in the house. But when raging flames got close to my daughter she was burnt on her hand whilst escaping the blaze,” Mugwagwa said.

Mugwagwa said that she was worried about replacing  all identity documents belonging to her husband, herself and their daughter that were lost in the fire.

“My biggest worry is how I am going to get a birth certificate for my daughter who will be starting her secondary school soon.”

Birth, death and identity documents are acquired from Karoi which is a distance away for the poor villagers of the area.

“Though we may not fully recover our belongings it is encouraging to note that our government cares for us,” Mugwagwa said.

Other villagers lamented at the destruction caused by the fire saying that though their houses were not burnt, their gardens were engulfed in the flames as the fire spread across the area.

Peter Rukwede said that his garden, which had become his reliable source of livelihood, was scotched to tinder by the blaze.

The gardens supplied vegetables to most families while  surplus was sold on the roadside to passers-by.

“I had a very lucrative vegetable patch that had succulent tomatoes, green vegetables and other produce…all that was destroyed now I have to start all over again because of the fire,” Rukwede said.

Minister Mpariwa warned the villagers on the dangers of burning forests when they wanted to clear land.

She said that as evidenced by the damage that occurred, villagers should  know the dangers associated with  starting fires that they cannot control not only destroys property but forests animals and their gardens that are the sources of their livelihood.

“Last year a similar fire occurred in this same area and this should not become a trend in Hurungwe….People must be taught about fire control as it is very important,” she said.

Mpariwa also pledged to help the victims of the fire saying that it is her ministry’s mandate to see that vulnerable people are well taken care of.

She said that she would not leave people to live in abject poverty as it is a fundamental human right to have food, shelter and clothing.

Mpariwa went on to distribute blankets, maize meal and other food stuffs to assist the families get by and promised to return and assess progress made in the area.

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