LOCALS in the Chilonga area of Chiredzi district have accused the government of prioritising outsiders, saying the authorities took swift action following the fatal accident at Chilonga Bridge involving a NetOne vehicle.
They said this is stark contrast to the lethargy displayed by officials whenever villagers raise complaints over the dangerous bridge.
The accident which claimed the lives of two NetOne employee Samson Zvarimwa (48) and his acquittance Loice Maradze (40), both from Masvingo province, happened after the two who were travelling in a Land Rover, tried to cross the flooded low-lying bridge across the Runde River. The makeshift bridge is notoriously known as the “killer bridge” due to the numerous lives it has claimed. They were on their way to fuel a NetOne mobile network booster at Chikombedzi growth point when they met their fate.
More than 12 people have died while trying to cross the bridge this year alone while government officials continue peddling empty promises of plans to construct a proper bridge to replace the one which was swept away by Cyclone Eline in the early 2000s.
In response to the weekend accident, a helicopter and the Fire Brigade were seen at the accident site, with locals saying it is the first time for them to witness such a response. Members of the police sub aqua unit also responded on time.
Community leader Tiyani Chilonga told The NewsHawks the government’s response to the NetOne accident last weekend amplified what the local Shangaan community has repeatedly complained about. “We are not treated as human beings in this country. They are not worried about our welfare, that is why they are not worried if locals are involved in tragedies similar to what happened at the weekend, they only want us during elections.
“We are dying almost every day due to the low-lying bridge at Chilonga, but we were shocked about the response which was taken by government officials when a NetOne vehicle was swept away by water at the weekend. Helicopters, Fire Brigade, police divers and various equipment were deployed to Chilonga Bridge in response to the accident but it is different from what we used to see when locals are involved in similar accidents. It is evidence that we are not seen as equal human beings who deserve respect in terms of the right to life or proper structures which guarantee our wellbeing. “They only need our votes so that they stay in power and during election time they bring fertilizers and maize requesting our votes,” said Chilonga.
Livison Chikutu, a resident of Makhosiya area who represents the Chilonga community against a proposed lucerne farming project in the area, told The NewsHawks the government’s response to the weekend incident shocked the locals who were unaware that there is capacity to quickly respond to such incidents. He said the Shangaan people are taken as inferior, that is why their wishes on the lucerne project are being ignored.
Chiredzi district development coordinator Lovemore Chisema, who is also the district’s civil protection unit chairperson, said what happened at the weekend is normal and there is nothing special. He urged local community leaders to encourage their people to stay away from the flooded bridge other than inciting people against government officials.
“There is nothing special about responding to disaster. Fire Brigade came from Tongaat Hulett and it is what they always do even if there is a fire incident in Chiredzi town or an accident within the borders of the district. We continue encouraging community leaders to urge their people to stay away from the flooded river until a solution to construct a new bridge is found,” said Chisema.
The Chiredzi South member of the National Assembly, Kallisto Gwanetsa, told The NewsHawks that government is not neglecting people in his area but Runde River is the fourth-biggest river in the country and a bridge at Chilonga needs a lot of money which the authorities are currently mobilising.
“Runde is the fourth-largest river in the country and if you look at it Mutirikwi and Tokwe rivers which host two big water bodies are tributaries of the river, meaning a lot of water is being released into it. Constructing a bridge needs a lot of money, which l am sure government is currently mobilising through the ministry of Finance. We urgently need a bridge to save our people’s lives,” said Gwanetsa.