General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, has officially welcomed the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) contingent that is building Bailey bridges over flood-damaged rivers in Zimbabwe.
Sibanda on 6 September said “I am here to officially welcome the South African National Defence Force’s contingent to Zimbabwe. I know I sent the army commander sometime in early August to welcome you, and I indicated then that I was coming in person to welcome you and to say a few words about your presence here.
“Allow me to officially welcome you to Zimbabwe and to Kopa, and also to thank you and through you the South African government and the SANDF for being real brothers. The action and your presence here indicate the good brotherly relations that exist between South Africa and Zimbabwe, and between the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the SANDF,” he said.
“What we witnessed here is something that we had never witnessed in this country. We had dealt with disasters before, but they were never of this magnitude. So when Cyclone Idai struck, we struggled to get things sorted out, but there were certain things that we did not have and in that regard, the South African government donated the two Bailey bridges that you are working to put up. I want to thank you as a contingent and you as individuals for the good work that you are doing,” he said.
“I have been briefed that you are going to meet your target dates. This is very important because this area when it starts raining it can be very rainy and the roads become difficult where there are not tarred. It is important that this task is completed before the onset of heavy rains which is sometime in December and early January.”
Towards the end of July, the SANDF deployed over 100 engineers to Zimbabwe to assist with fixing damage from Cyclone Idai. The SANDF personnel are in Zimbabwe for a period of 23 weeks. The intention is to rebuild roads and bridges before the next rainy season towards the end of the year.
When Cyclone Idai it Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in March, heavy rains fell across much of eastern Zimbabwe, with the heaviest rains falling in the Chimanimani District. Widespread flash flooding claimed hundreds of lives and caused extensive damage, with the Nyahonde River bursting its banks and inundating numerous communities. Destruction of numerous bridges and roads in eastern Chimanimani isolated many residents.