By Taurai Emmanuel Maforo (Rev) Gutu-Chepiri, Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe
Song, rhythmic dances and ululations characterised the tone of the relief food handover ceremony as beneficiaries alternated in starting songs of celebration as they waited patiently for their portion at Mutambwi Secondary School in the Kubiku area of Gutu-Chepiri under Chief Munyikwa.
“The grace of God reaches out to the world in times of great need” said the Reverend Vienna Mutezo, Zimbabwe West Connectional Ministries Director and Deputy Administrative Assistant to the Bishop during the handover ceremony of food hampers to 150 households in the Gutu-Chepiri community who gathered at Mutambwi Secondary School. Gutu-Chepiri is among the country’s drought-hit regions that were declared a state of emergency by the President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.
Each of the 150 households received food hampers that composed of; 50kg maize meal, 4kg dried fish, 9kg sugar beans, 3kg sweet sugar, 4litres cooking oil and a kilogram of salt. The food packs came as a blessing to the Gutu-Chepiri community through the initiative of the Zimbabwe West Annual Conference following release of a grant from the church’s relief arm – United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
“This gesture by the United Methodist Church comes in the wake of a Presidential declaration of a state of disaster due to the El-Nino induced drought which hit the 2015-2016 farming season…and as a church we could not stand by and watch, but to act…” said Rev. Mutezo. In doing so Rev. Jairous Mafondokoto the Masvingo District Suerintendent said the church was preaching a practical gospel. “Our core business as a church is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and works of charity become the practical application of that Gospel.”
Chief Munyikwa of the area appreciated the efforts by the church to alleviate the privation in their drought prone area. He however called for wider responses by other stakeholders. “I am the happiest man today to witness this food handout…” he said with a smile. “…but we still need other initiatives to deal with the worn out road infrastructure – particularly repair to our bridges.”
Netsai Sakabuya travelled more than 14 kilometeres to come to the distribution point with her two 8-month old twins Ropafadzo and Natsai. She clutched one child on her and the other on the front. “I had to endure the full journey for the sake of a meal for my kids…and I had no one to leave my kids with” lamented Sakabuya. Her plight was further exacerbated by the swept away bridge which connects her to Mutambwi. If it wasn’t for the damaged bridge, food distribution would have been held just a kilometre away from her home.
“The condition of road infrastructure, most importantly bridges in this area (Gutu-Chepiri) at times, become an impediment to effective implementation of relief and outreach efforts by the church and other organizations” said the Reverend Austern Chepiri who is the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Projects Coordinator. “We encountered challenges in reaching other parts of the area due to a collapsed bridge and we had to settle for Mutambwi…” he added.
A number of bridges were swept away due to hard-hitting Cyclone Dineo which swept across southern parts of Zimbabwe. “On one of our needs assessment visits with Rev. Mafondokoto, we had to cross the rivers on foot as our vehicles could not manoeuvre sections of the damaged bridge” said Rev. Mutezo. The Zimbabwean Ministry of Transport has already estimated about US$80million as the cost for repairing damaged roads and bridges.
Following the food relief handover visit to Gutu-Chepiri Rev. Mutezo said the church will continue to engage its various arms and find ways of responding to the needed requirements.