Hotel Rwanda gets another remake as Zimbabwean manager rises to the occasion and saves hundreds of lives by converting his hotel into a safe house

A survivor of Cyclone Idai carries her baby as she moves to higher ground at Ngangu suburb in Chimanimani.
  • When natural disasters strike the script most of the time is almost the same ‘every man for himself but God for us all’.
  • A few brave souls however, sometimes go ‘off script’ and instead of fleeing to save their dear skins, they rise to the occasion and go out of their way to help the victims in their own little ways.
  • Mandla Mataure, a hotel manager in Chimanimani, was one of the worst affected areas by Cyclone Idai is one such man.

When natural disasters strike the script most of the time is almost the same ‘every man for himself but God for us all’.

In the midst of all the chaos, deaths and misery sometimes, however, a few brave souls go ‘off script’ and instead of fleeing to save their dear skins, they rise to the occasion and go out of their way to help the victims in their own little ways.

Mandla Mataure is one such man.

As Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi still try to come to terms with Cyclone Idai tragedy which battered the region almost two weeks ago, killing hundreds of people and leaving a massive trail of destruction in its wake, amidst the destruction a few brave souls stood unshaken.

In Zimbabwe, the district of Chimanimani was one of the worst affected areas. Homes were swept away and bridges destroyed by the powerful cyclone of up to 200 kilometres per hour and storm surge floods of up to 6 metres.

In total, more than 2.6 million people across southeast Africa have been affected by Cyclone Idai, one of the worst weather-related disasters recorded in the southern hemisphere.

When the disaster struck Michael Mataure, a hotel owner in Chimanimani town didn’t flee but quickly rolled up his sleeves and come to the rescue of hundreds of victims with no shelter, food and clothing.

Since Saturday he's been hosting hundreds of victims whose homes have been destroyed by the storm.

“We are housing on a nightly basis between 100 and 110 people but feeding up to 220 people every day,” he told BBC Africa.

Mataure’s heroic deeds ring familiar and closely resembles another heart-warming humanitarian story which happened thousands of miles away in the land of a thousand hills; Hotel Rwanda.

Paul Rusesabagina, born on 15 June 1954 is a Rwandan humanitarian who, while working as a house manager at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, hid and protected 1,200 Hutu and Tutsi refugees from the Interahamwe militia during the Rwandan genocide.

Rusesabagina’s heroic deed in the face of death won him millions of fans worldwide and even caught Hollywood’s eye.

His story was turned into a best-selling movie titled Hotel Rwanda in 2004.

Back to Zimbabwe, Mataure too didn’t throw his hands in the hair in despair but put his life in danger for humanity.

“It was around mid-morning on Saturday. I looked out the window and I saw some people walking in the rain carrying their belongings. Some people had umbrellas ... it was women and children kind of trying to make their way up to our main business centre. So, I kind of saw that they were coming up and they had nowhere to go. So I just said to one of our porters at the hotel that he must go to the town centre and call them to come and get into the hotel.” Mataure who also doubles as the hotel manager told CBC radio.

Chimanimani Hotel in Zimbabwe is not that big, to begin with, and only boasts of about 35 rooms but that wasn’t going to stop Mataure whose heart knows no bounds.

“We've got a conference room, and then another room that we use as a lounge, that also leads through into what used to be our old casino. Both rooms are pretty much empty at the moment. We sort of moved things around so people are sleeping. I'll call it camping style, you know, next to each other. So we've got the women and children in one side and then the men in a different room.”

Led by Mataure the hotel staff have ensured they try to make life a little easier for the survivors, the majority of whom have lost everything.

“We had to dig a pit toilet outside to make sure sanitation is kept under check, a lot of volunteers have come through from among the survivors and they are assisting with the cooking and the supervising. We have had on a continuous basis between 50 to 60 and sometimes even up to 100 children from toddlers to up to school going age,”

In the midst of all the despair, Mataure says the human spirit has indeed prevailed over death and he personally has been greatly inspired.

“Our own staff have also been affected, we actually lost our reception on the night of the big storm and that was also very traumatizing to our staff who have had to work at very difficult conditions keeping in mind that some have also lost loved ones to the cyclone but all in all they have done an inspiring job and I think importantly amongst all these, the human spirit shined through and I think that is what has kept everyone going,” Mataure told BBC Africa.

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