Zimbabweans have had mixed reactions to Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s call for a week of prayer for rain as drought and heat threatens not just food supplies but schools and even burial rituals in the parched southern African country.
Mphoko earlier this week implored Zimbabweans “to turn to Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of Life to heal our land.”
He said that all Zimbabweans had to “prioritise” the call to prayer, due to begin this Saturday and last through to Sunday January 17th.
Drought is threatening crops and cattle across much of Zimbabwe. Agencies say 1.5 million Zimbabweans will soon need food aid. Zimbabwe’s total population is around 13 million.
Some Zimbabweans have ridiculed Mphoko’s call to prayer because of recent press reports alleging that he (and a grandson) have stayed in a plush hotel in Harare for a year.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change claimed last month he had run up a bill of more than $250 000 since December 2014.
“We must equally declare a national day of prayer n fast[ing]for him to check out of that hotel,” quipped one Zimbabwean Twitter user.
State television said this week that livestock in Masvingo province were succumbing to drought.
Twitter users in Zimbabwe have been posting pictures of dried up crops and several dams reduced to puddles in places like Insiza district and Gwanda in southern Zimbabwe.
Every inch of our country must be irrigated one way or another. #work24/7
The official Herald newspaper reported on Saturday that villagers in Kezi, Matobo and Tsholotsho districts of southern Zimbabwe were being forced to “fast-track” burials of their relatives even though this goes against their cultural practices.
The temperatures, some of them breaking 60-year-old records, are speeding up the decomposition of bodies, the paper said. Normally elderly people are not buried before midday.
Schools in Matabeleland South province are worried that the dams they rely upon may dry up, according to the Chronicle newspaper.
Saviour Kasukuwere, the local government minister, appeared to place his faith in irrigation, saying in a tweet Saturday that it was “no longer an option” to rely on “the heavens opening up.”
“Every inch of our country must be irrigated one way or another. #work24/7,” Kasukuwere tweeted.
Mphoko, who is acting president, said he was issuing the call to prayer on behalf of President Robert Mugabe, who is currently on his annual holiday in the Far East.-SABC