We have seen huge entourages of government officials, among them jacketed and high-heeled bosses, from the office of the Vice-President, the provincial office in Lusaka, from the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), the City Council and experts from the urban planning unit touring compounds that have been flooded following heavy rains last weekend.
Their mission: to inspect the extent of damage caused by the floods and to find ways of draining the water. After wading from compound to compound and pointing fingers around, they have found a master plan for fixing this annual ceremony called flooding, which is usually followed by another calendar event called cholera outbreak:
“As DMMU, what we want to see is that we have to retrieve fire tenders from other districts so that they can help drain the water here. At the end of the day, if all of them are here, I think within a day or two, the water will be out of the houses of the vulnerable. We are going to provide some relief food to the affected households and we are preparing for that food, by the end of the day today or tomorrow morning, they will start recovering,” said Honourable Olipa Phiri, minister in the office of the Vice-President.
Wow! What a master plan! The lasting solution to the floods in Lusaka is deploying fire tenders to pump water out of people’s flooded houses. Just to make this clear, government is going to deploy US$7 million worth of fire tenders to pump out floods from the townships. In one sentence, they are saying the floods have been caused by debris which comes with the water and clogs the drainages, but they feel the super expensive fire trucks can suck it all up?
What a waste of time! Surely, now after the townships are flooded, that’s when you get busy pointing fingers in all directions with jackets, ties and gumboots. Where have you been? It’s very strange that these people are acting surprised with these floods as if there is a year when there has never been floods in these compounds. How can you act surprised to see the levels of floods when it’s you who announced that there was going to be above normal rainfall this season? How can you ignore your own warning? Really, we have very strange leaders in the country.
Why didn’t all these officials who are touring compounds today sit down in May last year to plan ahead of the floods? This pointing they are doing today should have been done when the compounds were dry, to inspect where the drainages are going to pass and relocating those who have built along the natural drainage pathways. Engineers will tell you that you cannot build a bridge over a flooded river, work is done when there is less or no water underneath. You can’t drain water out of an entire flooded city. How much water and debris will these fire tenders suck out of all the flooded compounds, Kamwala and the shopping malls around the city before they get damaged? This is like attempting to mop an ocean; it’s laughable.
And it’s strange how government rushes to demonstrate goodwill by offering relief food to flood victims in Lusaka. In our view, floods don’t bring hunger to the people of Kanyama, Misisi and other affected townships. These people are hungry because of the inequality that has been allowed to flourish by successive governments. They are hungry because of corruption which has seen the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. They are hungry because decent jobs in the city are a preserve of those who are connected to political offices.
If the people of Kanyama are hungry today, we can bet anyone that they were hungry yesterday, last week, last month and all the years that they have lived in these townships. They are not hungry because the floods have destroyed their crops or anything like that. We appreciate the food donation from the DMMU, but what these people need more is decent housing and equal access to job opportunities in the city.
Have genuine pity for these suffering residents in the townships; these are the areas where most votes come from. Don’t just remember them at campaign time. It’s a mockery to have an area member of parliament who doesn’t even live in with them in these flooded areas coming to show sympathy and offering bubble-gum solutions to serious problems. Shame on you!