#Update: We must stay the course.

#Update: We must stay the course.

__ The true tragedy of Cyclone Idai’s impact begins to emerge.

A few weeks ago my daughters decided they wanted to travel to Chimanimani to see for themselves, the impact of Cyclone Idai. I was not sure whether it was a good idea. I just thought they would be in the way and interfere. They managed to persuade me and when they returned, they prepared a full briefing of their observations for me and we sat down to review it:

“We spoke to people in one area called Kopa, and we think there was a kind of ‘mud avalanche’, similar to when snow comes off a mountain, and it may have wiped out entire communities. Some people think that more than 600 people died.”

This statement about a “mud avalanche” caught my attention, and I immediately understood why people reported hearing earthshaking sounds coming from the mountain. It reminded me of what one expert had also said:

“The loose soils, some dislodged by deforestation and logging, acted like snow does, when they were hit by high winds traveling at 170km/h! That is why people heard rumbling noises. The same happens in an avalanche. Add fast moving water deluge, and it’s deadly. Those people did not stand a chance.”

We still have more than 1,000 people working on helping the people of Chimanimani, Zimbabwe recover from the impact of Cyclone Idai. Here is an update of some of our activities:

#1. Project Maricho:

We recruited more than 100 qualified builders to help families repair and rebuild their homes. We are supplying building materials, using donated funds. We plan to help repair and rebuild 5,000 homes before the next rains. The project is called “Maricho” based on a rural concept of helping each other to undertake a major task. This project is well underway now.

#2. Clean-up campaign moves into homesteads:

The 700 young people who were recruited as volunteers to help clean up the debris, including removing dead animals and hazardous waste, are now fully paid community workers, helping people clean up mud from their homes. Some homes had mud up to 3m deep and were unlivable. Our teams have helped them clean up the homes and areas around their homesteads. Their focus is on homes for the elderly.

#3. Orphans and schools: We have helped over 600 orphans return to school and also helped repair some of the schools.

#4. Counseling: We are financing several local NGOs who are involved in counseling communities deal with the post-traumatic stress.

#5. Financing: We have helped dozens of small businesses get back on their feet by providing them financing.

#6. Finding the missing:

Our major exercise to establish how many people are still missing and their names has been completed. The study undertaken by Cassava Advanced Data Analytics will be released this week. I have already seen the report and it is very, very sad.

#7. Memorial Estate:
We have secured a 2,000 hectare site from the Government of Zimbabwe to build new homes for families who lost their homes and cannot rebuild where they originally lived. This is our major initiative going forward. Design work for the first 500 houses has been completed and contractors will start work in July.

#8. Land preparations: Our tractor fleet is now moving from logistics to land preparations for families that lost cattle.

#9. Roads and bridges: Our contractors working on road repairs and local community bridges are still working and will be completed on the work we gave them by end August.

#10. Removal and crushing of stones:
Stones brought down from the mountains did a lot of damage. Removing them has been a major exercise for the past two months. Our engineers will install a crushing machine to convert some of them into building materials.

Our work has only been possible because of the extraordinary cooperation and collaboration of partners who include the Zimbabwe National Army and police; ministries of local government, environment, and agriculture; the Civil Protection Unit; Zimbabwe’s churches and church leaders; local government authorities; administrators; political parties and traditional leaders, as well as Zimbabwe’s business leaders and entrepreneurs.

We also have dozens international partners who include UN agencies, UK’s DFID, Gates Foundation, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite, Israel Aid, Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, Soros Foundation, Gift of The Givers from South Africa and many others.

Here’s a link to one video made by my daughters during their trip to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Warning: it is extremely sad. We can’t forget, or let the world forget. Part of our mission in all the work we’re doing is to prepare our communities for the future, should any such catastrophe ever hit again.



#Reboot and BuildBetter



Author:Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.

20 Replies to “#Update: We must stay the course.”

  1. Afterthought 1.

    “Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person.”

    The community response to Cyclone Idai has been remarkable. Let us continue to do what we can, where we are, even as the months pass and we get busy on other things.

  2. Afterthought 3.

    If you know people who were victims of Cyclone Idai or other huge disasters, you might find they remain very traumatized or depressed for a very long time. They may even require professional help, if it can be found. We are helping support some groups who are providing counseling to the Cyclone victims. Here’s a link to help you understand what they might be going through.


  3. Afterthought 4.

    Higherlife Foundation still has more than 50 people working in the area of the cyclone impact. We are helping communities repair and rebuild, lives, homes and livelihoods. This will take a very long time. Here’s another video made by my daughters, showing the terrible aftermath:


    If you’d like to donate toward #TheNextMile and the next ones after that… please go to: http://bit.ly/PledgeIdai_TheNextMile.

  4. #Memorial Housing Estate:

    We are going to build 500 new homes on a site we are calling Memorial.
    It is going to be a beautiful place!
    Each home will have running water, and powered by our Ugesi Solar Mini-grid.
    Our interest is to house the most vulnerable people:
    Orphans, widows, and the elderly.
    No one will be forced to come there.
    But let me tell you:
    It will be the most beautiful village in Africa—even you will want to go and live there!
    Just wait and see!
    #Reboot, build better?

    Every element of that vision is captured in this housing estate.


  5. #Pause:

    Our Foundation is now working with the Zimbabwe Civil Protection Unit, and some international donors to see what can be done to mitigate the impact of a future cyclone.
    Some of our discussions include:

    #1. Providing finance to create rapid response unit for things like community warning and orderly evacuation.
    Even for a poor country, it is possible as we saw in India recently to help communities in orderly evacuation.

    #2. This is part of an initiative we began following the Cholera outbreak last year.
    Now we are expanding it to include Climate Change Resilience.
    This will take years, but it will be done.

    #3. We are working with Israel Aid, in community based trauma counseling training.

    We must be systematic, and methodical in our approach.
    We must not chase headlines but ensure that everything that must be done can be done.

  6. Allan Ali Nobula writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa I met a friend here on your page he wanted to come volunteer and help out in Chimanimani. He came by bus all the way from Tanzania… I hosted him at my parents house for a a few days. I took him to the higherlife foundation offices at westgate. He was told to send his cv on a Tuesday and they told him he would get a reply on Thursday. He was so eager to go see that on Wednesday he asked me to take him to the buses that go to Chimanimani.. He says Pastor lovemore welcomed him well and now he is helping out the team… Its not just Zimbabweans out help but Africa

    My reply,
    I would also like to meet him.
    Pastor Lovemore will arrange for him to go to Harare at the earliest opportunity. There he will be hosted by Mr Mboweni the group CEO for up to two weeks. He will spend some time at each of our businesses there.

    Once he has all necessary visas, they will bring him to me, and he will get a chance to spend a week with me.
    You can do the Harare part of the visit with him.

    There is more for this guy!

  7. #ShoutOut

    Joseph Joel from Tanzania!

    Dear Group Chairman

    I do apologise for not alerting you, Sir. Yes my team received Joel Joseph at our offices on the 21st of May.

    Once we received him at Westgate and established that he was your avid Facebook follower and had come by road from Tanzania to volunteer in the Cyclone Hit Chimanimani area, we reached out to Ps Lovemore….

    Joseph Joel of Kagera, Tanzania is 32 years old, born 18 June 1987, and a qualified Architect from ARDHI University Dar Es Salaam. He also holds a certificate in Building Design and Engineering Approaches to Airborne Infection Control: Harvard Medical School.

    HLF has in its possession copies of his CV, Letter of recommendation, Architectural Profile, degree certificate and birth certificate. These have been shared with Ps Lovemore….

    We are available to assist Joel as he spends more time within the group….


    Dr Kennedy
    CEO HLF.

  8. #Entrepreneurship with purpose!

    “If you want to have success in your life, identify a human need, and reach out to solve it, in a sustainable way..”

    Let’s not run away from the problems we see in our communities. It is true that many of them need good, transparent and competent governments, but there are also many that can be solved by ordinary citizens. There are a lot of people throughout Africa [who are not millionaires or even billionaires], and who are not in newspaper headlines, that are doing remarkable things to help improve lives.

  9. #Entrepreneurship with purpose!


    Imagine if every entrepreneur was running two organizations:
    Their business, and a not-for-profit?

    Why don’t you try it:
    Sit down with your partners and identify an area that you would like to engage in as philanthropists, then register a philanthropic organization. This is what I did when my business was smaller than what most of you are currently running!
    That is today’s challenge!


  10. #ShoutOut to Local Volunteers:

    Look at what is written on the back of that guy’s uniform:


    When our leadership team arrived in Chimanimani after the cyclone struck, they knew that the best approach is always to work with local people on the ground.
    The first thing was to ask for volunteers who would be prepared to work “unpaid” for as long as it takes:
    Thousands of people responded!
    Many of them were educated young people who had no work and were sitting at home!
    Those selected [about 1000] were put to work by Econet and Higherlife staff who found lodgings at a local Tea Estate. Every single day for more than two months, these guys came to work. They worked long hours!
    They never asked to be paid, even for one day!

    Eventually we decided to give them allowances to enable them to buy food and get transport.

    They did it because they loved their communities, and their country.

    Many of them have now been given longer term jobs to help in repairs and building of new homes.

    All those young people that you see roaming around, unemployed, have not failed. It is us [the grown ups] who have failed them by not providing them @PurposeLeadership!

    If you are an entrepreneur, it means you have one skill above all:
    Do you know what it is?

    #You know how to lead and organize others!

    Use it!

    It’s not just about making money!

  11. Fortune writes,

    Absolutely encouraging news. How about reforestation efforts, and getting to the root cause of trees being cut down over the years?

    Grew up in Mutare, and often wonder about the effects of deforestation, especially in mountainous areas.

    Education for the masses too, and involving locals in replanting efforts and forestry conservation.

    Then again, maybe setting up an initiative encouraging innovators to find alternatives to firewood.

    I think it’s somewhere in the pipeline, and could have missed it.

    To everyone involved, well done

    My reply,
    The problems YOU are seeing are calling on you [personally] to take some active steps, however small.
    Sit down with some friends, and start taking some actions in one or two of these areas.
    You will be surprised that a few years from now, we will be talking about what you did.

    [see my comment about William Wilberforce]

  12. #Your [own] path to greatness is in the problem you are seeing!

    Years ago, I gave a speech to graduating students about “two men called William”:
    Does anyone remember it?

    One, William Pitt came from the most powerful family in the land, and at 24 he was already PM of The British Empire!

    His friend, William Wilberforce came from a business family and became an ordinary member of parliament.

    One day some Christian campaigners against slavery went to see Wilberforce, and told him about this inhuman trade.

    Wilberforce went to see his friend, the PM. The PM told him there was nothing he could do, despite all his power but instead urged Wilberforce to do everything he could!

    Wilberforce [who never held a single post of power in his life], decided there and then that he had found his purpose in life!

    For the next 40 years he fought to end slavery, and is better known in history than the other “William”!

    Don’t always assume that the answers to all of life’s problems lie with those in power or those with money. There is nothing to stop you getting something done.

    “Miracles begin, only when you step forward and allow yourself to be used.”

    “What is in your hand?”

    “My lunch box” the little boy replied.

    “Ok. Let’s feed 5000 with it” the Lord answered.

    There is a lot in our hands, even today!

  13. Simba Machisa writes,

    Thank u very much Mr Masiwa lm even one of the people who are doing the volutary work here at Kopa Thank u for your support

    My reply,
    Thank you Simba for what you and your colleagues are doing. Without you we would not have been able to do this work.
    Thank you and God bless you all.

  14. #Why I love to read!

    Here is something a friend sent me today!


    This could be perfect for the Zambezi above the falls.
    Solar at night and water wheels all day and night

    When I see something like this, I start to think about a new type of business!

    Entrepreneurs Act!

    This is what @Fast Followers do!

    There is so much opportunity for you out there guys!

    But don’t cry if I grab it before you, because no one owes you a living!

    What did you read today?

  15. #Reflection:

    @Africa Day!

    When I returned to Zimbabwe in 1984, I had been away since I was 6 years old.
    I decided I needed to get to know every part of the country, and set about to drive to every area at weekends, and I never went anywhere outside the country for holidays, until I had covered every area.
    There is only one area I actually never visited because my little car broke down as I was trying to get there.
    Guess where it was?

    I tried again to get there in December 1999, but I had to return owing to an emergency.
    I left Zimbabwe on 22nd March 2000, and have never been back.

    One day, I promise to make this trip!

    I had to tell you this, because I wanted you to appreciate that you don’t just respond to a problem simply because you come from there!
    I find Tribalism totally abhorrent.

    I have never been to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone, and yet I spent months working almost full time to raise money for them following the Ebola Crisis.


  16. #Reflection:

    What beautiful things you are all saying!
    It means so much to me and all those who were on the ground.
    Thank you!

    Now, you may not have been able to respond to this particular crisis yourself, but I hope that it prepares you for the next crisis, which may well come to your own country or neighborhood.
    Use the principles I have tried to demonstrate throughout the crisis:

    #1. During the crisis is not the time for finding blame, even if you are correct. It is a time to ACT [Yourself];

    #2. It is not about how much you have materially but about how much desire you have in your heart. Think about the young man in Tanzania from this platform, who travelled by bus to Zimbabwe, and found his way to Chimanimani!

    Save lives!

    #3. Reach out to everyone else who is involved. Work with everybody. It is not a time to choose who you like or don’t like. If they are also involved in trying to solve the problem, work with them.

    #Stay away from, and above politics in the midst of a crisis. Work with everyone.

    #4. Work with local people. Ensure that young people are part of the solution.

    #5. When things have settled down, begin the methodical reviews to ensure that such loss of life is minimized in future.

  17. #ShoutOut Donald!

    This is how we lead!

    Wow! This is a masterpiece my mentor. I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged to keep on with the little I’m doing in my great ways. If I can’t affect my community positively with what I’ve in my hand, I don’t think I can do so widespread in my country. So I have chosen to start right here in my community in Nigeria with a global expansion in view. The works are on already.
    So far, I have been able to be used to save a life that was suffering from a terrible health challenge that was nearly lost. With my Android phone, I created an online platform that brought my community members in and outside Nigeria together where I raised the alarm of the young boy who is dying. To the glory of God, a community member in USA sent in money, another in Dubai sent in money and others in the community sent in their own freewill donations. Today, the young man is hale and hearty. Pictures are available to testify. This is what I’ve learnt here. This is what you’ve taught us Dr. Strive. I love you

  18. Liberty Quinton Masasa writes,

    I want you to be my mentor sir you are so good

    My reply,
    Im happy to be your mentor, through this platform. That is why I set it up.
    Let’s learn from each other. I also learn from you, so don’t just be a silent participant; make constructive comments, and I will try and answer them whenever possible.
    Have a great day!

  19. #Update on Jose Joel Baty:

    So yesterday, after hearing for the first time about what Joel did, I asked our senior executives to give me a full briefing.
    Joel never reached out directly to me before he set off on his epic road journey from Tanzania to Zimbabwe through Zambia. I actually know the route and it is no joke!

    I spoke to Gavin Manning, an engineer responsible for our construction work in Chimanimani, as well as Lovemore Nyatsine. They told me that Joel is a qualified Architect.

    Let me just say that Joel’s life will never be the same again.

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