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Authority ignores disaster victims

MASERU — It never rains but pours for Makhutla Tseka’s family.

His family of seven spent the past winter exposed to the season’s freezing temperatures because they could not repair the roof of their house which was blown away last October.

First, they had to endure the torrential rains of last summer before the freezing cold of the just-ended winter.

Now they have to brace themselves for the blustery spring.

And the rains are not far away.

It seems their misery will never come to an end.

They have been battling to repair the roof of their home in Ha-Shelile in Maseru district.

“We lost the roof in the winds of October last year and we have not been able to pay for the repairs because we are broke,” Tseka says.

He recalls vividly the night the roof was blown away.

“The wind was blowing fiercely that night. We could feel that the roof was about to be blown away,” he says.

“I could feel that sooner or later the roof was going to fly off the house.

“The wind had grown stronger then. In fact, the other side of the roof was already ripping off.

“I started praying for the roof to hold on until the wind stopped.”

Yet despite her prayers the roof was blown away.

“We watched helplessly as the roof finally flew off, leaving my family at the mercy of the dusty and rainy wind.”

He said they scrambled out of the house to take cover in a small shack they used as a storeroom.

“We squeezed into the shack. The kids had to sleep. We needed a shelter against the wind.”

The next morning they searched the compound to look for what was left of their roof, Tseka recalls.

They found a few scraps but they were not enough to give them a roof.

“We are now panicking because the rains are approaching,” Tseka says.

“We are worried that even this partial roof will be blown away.

“We are already on the receiving end.

“We do not know what we are going to do.

“The roof we have now cannot protect us from the wind or rain,” he said.

Tseka’s family is not the only one that is miserable.

Hundreds of other families lost their roofs last year.

They still have not managed to repair them and now they are facing the same problems as the Tseka family.

Shesa Poulo’s situation is even dire.

Unlike Tseka’s situation, Poulo’s roof was completely destroyed.

“The roof was destroyed beyond repair. Part of the house has curved in,” Poulo tells the Sunday Express.

He was forced to seek accommodation from friends.  

“All my belongings were destroyed,” he recalls.

“I am still living with friends now because I cannot afford to repair my house.

“I am unemployed.” 

He said he desperately needed help. 

Heavy winds hit many areas across the country, destroying homes and businesses.

Under normal circumstances families are supposed to be assisted by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA), a government organisation which coordinates and monitors disaster management.

It also deals with post-disaster recovery programmes.

But victims say the DMA does not respond to their pleas for help on time.

They say they have waited for a very long time to get help.

There are families that have been waiting for assistance for the past two years.

This is not the first time that the DMA has been accused of being casual towards disasters.

Last year Mapoteng villagers accused the DMA of taking its time to repair their homes which had been destroyed by rains.

DMA information officer Khopotso Phafoli says the process of repairing the houses had been affected by the Integrated Financial Information Management Information System (IFMIS).

Phafoli says some of the houses destroyed in 2007 and 2008 have not been repaired because the government does not have sufficient funds.

“IFMIS hindered the DMA’s efforts to help desperate Basotho to rebuild their destroyed houses,” Phafoli says.

“The funds were not enough too.”

“We will assess the financial situations of families whose houses were destroyed,” she adds.

“However, priority goes to the most vulnerable families who cannot afford roofing or rebuilding their houses.”

Phafoli says houses will be repaired as soon as assessment is completed.

The first phase of the assessment process started in Butha-Buthe last week.

“Only selected houses will be repaired countrywide,” she says.

“Repairing and rebuilding will be done based on the amount of destruction.”

She says to ensure that the rebuilt and repaired houses would withstand wind and storms, building inspectors are invited to advise builders on good building strategies.

“We make sure that houses are built and roofed in a good position which can survive any sort of winds,” Phafoli says.

“We have seen good results as none of the DMA-rebuilt or repaired houses have been affected by the latest winds.”

‘Mannyali Malefane, the DMA officer in Butha-Buthe district, says the assessment team also educates villagers about proper building methods to avoid disasters. 

“The DMA team advises people about safer ways of building and roofing houses to ensure that they have houses which can withstand winds,” Malefane says.

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