The floods that pounded Harare recently causing millions of dollars of damage to residential properties have left residents and the local authority (City of Harare) pitted against each other.
One such victim is Faustine Mukazhe (63) of Budiriro, who lost a house, household goods worth thousands of dollars to the floods. For her it was a heavy blow and a case of shattered dreams.
“I and my husband who is now late managed to build the house from a lifetime saving. With the current economic hardships, saving to build a house is no easy task.
“As for me my life will never be the same again, our house was not insured, as we speak I am struggling to put food on the table and chances of ever owning a house again have gone,” says Mukazhe who sells vegetables at her gate.
Her story is just one case of many after floods hit areas like Mbare, Budiriro, and Borrowdale, among others.
The catastrophe left residents considering legal actions against the local authority for damages caused by poor drainage.
Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni has reportedly said that it was not guaranteed that residents would be compensated for the losses, as some of the houses were allegedly built on undesignated land.
The natural disaster exposed ill-preparedness on the part of both the local authority and residents. Experts say the impact could at least have been minimised had the properties been under comprehensive insurance policy.
Insurance may be defined as a form of risk management where a loss is transferred from one part to the other for a fee.
The policyholder pays monthly instalments called premiums to the insurance service provider who will provide compensation when the loss happens. Any risk to property that can be calculated can be insured against, and there are several types of insurance cover.
Zimbabwe Insurance Brokers (ZIB)’s Marketing Officer Malcom Mhlanga says it is always vital for people to insure their properties against unforeseen events, including floods.
“Insurance is like banking or putting money in a savings account; in the event of a loss the insurance company can then compensate the victim. With the unpredictability of such events, it means when they hit, most property owners or residents are caught off guard and insurance would lessen the burden,” says Mhlanga.
He explains that a resident who wants insurance cover can either approach an insurance company directly, or go through insurance brokers who link insurance companies and prospective clients.
He says it is highly recommended to go through the latter, which are experts in the area, know market trends, and can offer a policy to suit each client’s needs.
“Brokers can help them get better services, as they can do evaluations to those clients who may not know the value of their properties, and then advise appropriately on which cover to take,” he explained.
To avoid misunderstandings when claims are made, Mhlanga explains that it is important for clients to know which of their properties are covered by each policy and the ones that are not.
Meanwhile, the Insurance Council of Zimbabwe (ICZ) agrees with Mhlanga that it is crucial for residents to understand the cover they are buying to avoid disappointments later when disaster hits.
ICZ says one has to follow the claims procedures well, and for as long as one has a comprehensive cover, the insurance company will compensate in accordance with the terms and conditions of the policy.