Giant Hail Stones Lash Part of Gokwe

Farmers were left counting loses after hailstones hit their crops at Chomupungane area under Chief Njelele, in Gokwe, the Southern part of Zimbabwe recently, this publication can reveal.

According to villagers in Chomupangane the hailstones started around 17.30 in the evening. Heavy winds occurred, before the hailstones started falling. The Hailstones affected villages including Munderure, Matonhodze, Dhaka, Moses, Musutisi, and Cheza villages. A lot of crops were destroyed including, maize, sourgum, and sun flowers amongst others. The gardens were not spared either, with all the vegetables destroyed.

When this reporter arrived at some of the farms, farmers were busy picking up the hailstones some of which weighed approximately 5 to 15kg, and some were even more than double. Speaking in an interview with this reporter, one villager Binnos Chinyangurwa from Tungwane village at Cheza area, thankfully no human life was lost but, the destruction left by the hailstones were unbearable especially on his farm.

“The hailstones caused disaster. This is a great loss in our community because many fields have been destroyed mostly on my side. One, and half hectares of round nuts that was largely my cash crop, one hectare of maize, sunflowers, groundnuts, and many more plants were destroyed to the extent that we will not be able to harvest anything,” he said.

“Houses were also distracted, with seven of them heavily affected. The extent of the distraction is such that the villagers will need to start building from zero, because there is nothing they can do to repair the damaged caused. And we appeal to those who are willing to assist to come forth and help these villagers” said Chinyangurwa.

According to the villagers, the hailstones lasted for nearly a week, from Monday up to Saturday before melting, and the ice block was covered a large area. All hope has been lost, with farmers saying this is a huge loss because the fertile soil was eroded.

Folklore has it that the place where these villagers are situated at Chomupungane forest is traditionally holy, and is not supposed to be settled. Peter Shova, a nearby villager told this reporter that in 1980 some people settled in this area, but they were removed because the place was traditionally respected, and considered a state owned place.

“In 1980 after independence some people illegally settled at Chemupungani, but they were removed because the place was protected, and owned by the state. Furthermore, it was regarded as a holy place. Long ago at Mbumbuzi we used to hear sounds of beating drums, some saw Madzimudzangara (ghost). This clearly shows that it is a traditional place, and our mothers used to go fetch firewood, and mushrooms there. It was also a grazing land for our domestic animals, and hunting place,” said Shova.

He added that sometime in 1986 the settlers were removed from Chomupungane after floods that hit the place. Now that such a hailstone has happened speaks volume about the importance of observing the traditional values of the place.

Timothy Mashove the Headman of Mashove village near Chomupungane Forestry also added, “Chomupungane forestry falls under the category of woodlands, forestry on state lands, and protected areas. Therefore, there is need to manage it well.”

Chomupungane is the third largest forest, and was gazetted in 1954 with 82 100 hectares. However, it has been invaded by illegal settlers who came from different parts of the country, and about 11 000 hectares have been cleared for settlement purposes with nearly 45 village Heads. This is a challenge to the intended conservation purpose of the watershed for Ngondoma, Lutope, Mbumbuzi, Sengwa and Gwemuseve rivers.

According to a source that pleaded for anonymity there was a meeting held at Njelele Clinic on last week where Chief Njelele urged the villagers in Chemupungani to remove their gardens, and avoid planting anything in the forests.

“…yes there was a meeting held last week, and the Chief urged those who have been doing their gardens in the forest to remove them. This is because farming, and tree stamping that was done illegally led to soil erosion, and river siltation since some were ploughing down-stream near Mbumbuzi, Lutope, Sengwa, and Gwemuseve River banks, and some were using sledges,” said the source.

In 2018 after the election the villagers were removed by the police, but they keep returning.