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In August last year, Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims started leaving the overcrowded Chingwizi temporary camp on the northern tip of the expansive Nuanetsi Ranch in the arid Mwenezi district.

For most of the 3 000 flood victims, this would be the last leg of an eventful and tortuous journey that started after they were displaced from their traditional homes in Chivi by rampaging floods caused by incessant rains in the Tokwe-Mukosi basin.

Having endured the rigours of life in the overpopulated Chingwizi camp for almost half a year, the flood victims prayed for a chance to start the painstaking process of rebuilding their battered lives at the new permanent plots.

An air of optimism imbued the flood victims as they left the camp for the one-hectare permanent plots they were allocated by Government in the Nuanetsi Ranch.

Expectations of a better life were high. The prospects of having own dwelling paces and kissing goodbye to tents and plastic houses galvanised the flood victims who equated their situation to the Biblical journey travelled by the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt to Canaan.

However, eight months after the relocation, their hope for the better life is fast evaporating, leaving the families in a deep abyss of despair.

They are still grappling with familiar challenges as very little has changed in their lives.

Some have virtually capitulated in the face of seemingly unending challenges, ranging from shortage of water, food and even shelter.

Plans by the Masvingo provincial leadership to relocate the families from Nuanetsi to Chiumburu Farm, about 60km further south, have not helped matters.

The families believe their proposed new home is worse than Nuanetsi Ranch as it is unfit for human habitation.

They also lament its remoteness, meaning they would be virtually cut off from the rest of Zimbabwe especially in terms of access to facilities such as hospitals and clinics.

At Nuanetsi, they are not sure whether they will ever live normal lives again.

A severe shortage of water at Nuanetsi is forcing the flood victims to share borehole water with their livestock.

Mr Livison Nyamande of Mashenjere Village says the situation is so dire at Naunetsi that many families had given up hope of living normally again.

“Maybe our children will lead normal lives but there is no hope for us. It has been a tale of unfulfilled promises without tangible deliverables,” he said.

Mr Nyamande displays profound despair on the prospect of a second relocation for the families.

“We are already suffering here at Nuanetsi but at least we have hope that one day we will be able to benefit from Tokwe-Mukosi dam. Moving us to Chiumburu, a jungle area in the extreme southern part of Mwenezi, will be like condemning us to eternal suffering because the area is inhabitable,” he said.

Fortunately, Government has made a commitment to compensate the relocated families to the tune of $7 million.

“If we could be paid the outstanding compensation we could be better off because at least we will have somewhere to start. Many of us want to look for new homes elsewhere but we can’t do so with nothing in our pockets,” he said.

Mrs Rumbidzai Paridzirai of Jahwa village laments the daily struggles she encounters to put a decent meal for her family on the table at Nuanetsi.

“Life is like hell here because of shortage of food especially relish. We are not allowed to water gardens because we will overstretch the few functional boreholes,” she said.

Mrs Paridzirai said their woes were compounded by a blanket ban on any form of hunting in the Nuanetsi Ranch, which a private property.

“There are guards who patrol the area daily making sure that we do not hunt. Hunting is a very serious offence even shooting down birds is outlawed. Those who break the hunting ban are slapped with very stiff penalties,” she said.

Mrs Mercy Majanyanya of Mashenjere village said the flood victims felt betrayed by the authorities for condemning them to squalor at Nuanetsi which is a very dry area.

“Government is giving each family a 50kg bag of maize monthly,” she said.

The families feel authorities have since forgotten the plight of thousands of school-going children at Nuanetsi who still conduct lessons under trees and small tents.

At Nyuni Primary Chingwizi and Tokwe-Mukosi primary schools and Nyuni Secondary schools, teachers live in small tents and conduct lessons in the open.

Construction of classroom blocks made of bricks remains a far-fetched dream for children. Shortage of funds has been hampering construction of permanent structures, forcing many children to conduct lessons in the brutal face of aerse weather conditions.

A clinic being built by artisans from the Zimbabwe National Army with funding from the National Aids Council and two houses for health workers are the only serious indicators that something is being done to bring a semblance of modernity to this remote rural outpost of Nuanetsi.

Families currently receive medical attention from a prefabricated clinic built by an Italian NGO, Cesvi. The clinic, however, sometimes gets overwhelmed.

Serious medical cases are referred to Chiredzi District Hospital, about 80 kilometres away, but patients do not only have to contend with a dilapidated road but also shortage of transport.

Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa said Government was aware of the hardships faced by the relocated families hence the new thrust to relocate them again.

She said the one hectare plots allocated to the families are not sustainable.

She said families would get five hectare plots each.

“There are investors who have undertaken to fund the relocation of the families to bigger plots which they will be allocated once pegging has been completed. The investors have also promised to install running water for them,” she said.

On claims that Chiumburu farm was worse than the Nuanetsi Ranch owing to the former’s extreme aridity and remoteness, Senator Mahofa said not all families would be moved there.

She said the Masvingo provincial leadership was also weighing the possibility of settling the majority of them on the banks of the perennially-flowing Mutirikwi River.

However, the relocated families at Nuanetsi believe theirs has been a tale of promises that are rarely fulfilled, forcing the majority of them to resign their future to fate.

Source : The Herald