President Mnangagwa hails Belarus for agriculture, forestry equipment
Harare (New Ziana) – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has hailed the impact that equipment from Belarus has made on agricultural production, resuscitation of forestry and national food security.
Zimbabwe has received tractors, combine harvesters and timber industry equipment from Belarus under two initial phases of the Belarus Farm Mechanisation Facility with the two countries scaling up cooperation after signing a number of Memoranda of Understanding in January this year.
“Similarly, the timber industry equipment from Belarus has helped in resuscitation of our country’s forestry sector,” President Mnangagwa said as he launched the first batch of 23 firefighting tenders from the Eastern European country in the capital on Friday.
He said the fire tenders, which are part of 131 that have been ordered from Belarus which is under economic sanctions by Western countries as is the case with Zimbabwe, come at a time when fire incidences are negatively affecting the economy, especially strategic sectors such as agriculture, plantations and forestry assets, tourism and communication.
“Regrettably recent trends show that fire has become one of the major threats to people’s lives, livelihoods and properties. This has been exacerbated by climate change, including improper use and storage of liquid petroleum gas, electrical faults, veldt fires, accidents and trafficking of inflammable and hazardous substances,” he said.
“It is disheartening to note that during the past year alone, the country recorded a total of 3 141 fire incidents which consumed about 804 588.09 hectares of land. Further 10 people died at a farm in Umzingwane district as a result of a fire, while Kombani and Eland Lodges worth more than US$1million were burnt to ashes. In Zvimba, 45 ha of winter wheat and 28 houses were destroyed. At Chindunduma High School and St Francis Xavier’s Kutama College, a dining hall and hostel were burnt down respectively. Shamva Rural District Council offices were also guttered by fire, among other such areas.”
Alarmingly, President Mnangagwa said the majority of the 92 local authorities in the country are ill- equipped for fire threats with Harare Metropolitan province having only four functional fire tenders to service its forty-six wards, industrial sites and neighbouring towns and local authorities.
It is for this reason, he said, the Second Republic is prioritizing the procurement of fire-fighting equipment to mitigate against fire hazards, with the fire tenders to be distributed to the 92 local authorities for the management of fire incidents. Harare and Bulawayo were each allocated four tenders while the remaining local authorities will have their allocations determined by their need and size.
The Zimbabwe National Defence University got a single machine for teaching purposes and to cover the new Parliament Building in Mt Hampden. The fire tenders are coming with back up services, spare parts and accessories to guarantee after care services.
“Additionally, simulators will be supplied to assist in the training and operation of the fire-fighting trucks. Training of operators, drivers, fire fighters, mechanics and commanders of the fire brigades will be undertaken by AFTRADE and the Belarus Ministry of Emergency Situations with workshops set to be established in Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare, Chiredzi and Gwanda,” said President Mnangagwa, adding that Zimbabwe was going to establish a Multi-Hazard National Disaster Management Centre in Harare while Educational Safety Centres that focus on all forms of hazards and disasters will soon be rolled out to enhance training and skills.
President Mnangagwa called on communities in the country to make efforts to prevent veldt fires while stakeholders in the prevention and management of fires that include the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), the Zimbabwe Electricity, Transmission and Distribution Company (ZEDTC) and local authorities should scale up enforcement of regulations and procedures to deter the prevalence of fires.