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Rising Zimbabwe sports stars undaunted by cyclone horror

Trust Mathonore 17-year-old Zimbabwean golfer cyclone Idai
Trust Mathonore 17-year-old Zimbabwean golfer cyclone Idai Cath Riley

A 17-year-old golfer in Zimbabwe is lucky to be alive after surviving Cyclone Idai. He is hoping to put the episode behind him when his team plays in a tournament this month.

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Trust Mathonore's home in Chimanimani's Matsetso village was destroyed by a landslide when the cyclone struck on the night of 15 March and he was washed down a mountainside.

He received severe injuries to his head and left knee and was missing for two days before friends found him in a local clinic.

"The first thing he said when he came round was, 'I've lost my golf clubs'," said Jane High, a Chimanimani resident and coordinator for the Matsetso Stars, a local youth group training youngsters like Trust who show promise as golfers, soccer players or mountain guides.

The golf clubs Trust lost to the storm were a treasured gift from benefactors in Scotland.

Trust had to be airlifted out of Chimanimani for treatment in nearby Chipinge, then on to the city of Mutare 140 kilometres away. But he has since been discharged from hospital and he and 14 of his young teammates have been given accommodation in the city ahead of their junior golf tournament on 24 April.

The golf course in Chimanimani was destroyed, leaving them with no place to practice.

Trust told RFI he's still taking it slow, just chipping and putting, but the cyclone disaster hasn't robbed him of his dreams.

"What I wish... I need to wear the blazer of the Zimbabwe team and I need to represent my country, and Chimanimani as well, by my golfing," he said.

Lost Stars

Praymore Mwarumba on a mission to help Zimbabwean people and animals after the devastation of Cyclone Idai, which killed his brother, Johnson Mwarumba, April 2019
Praymore Mwarumba on a mission to help Zimbabwean people and animals after the devastation of Cyclone Idai, which killed his brother, Johnson Mwarumba, April 2019 Chimanimani Tourist Association

It was feared that Trust's injuries could have killed him.

Tragically, not all of the Matsetso Stars escaped alive. The group is mourning the death of Johnson Mwarumba, a centre back for the soccer team. He drowned in the flooded Nyahode River.

Despite the tragedy, and the destruction of a soccer pitch that took them three years to build, the Matsetso Stars are confronting the future with amazing courage.

Since burying his brother on 20 March, Praymore Mwarumba has been on a mission to help others, High said.

With a heavy pack on his back the young trainee mountain guide has been scouting the hills around Chimanimani, bringing back photographic evidence from areas where people need help.

"At the same time he carries emergency food for people and animals and tries to gather information that will help SPCA (the animal welfare group) to decide on their priority areas," said High.

Praymore Mwarumba on a mission to help Zimbabwean people and animals after the devastation of Cyclone Idai, which killed his brother, Johnson Mwarumba, April 2019
Praymore Mwarumba on a mission to help Zimbabwean people and animals after the devastation of Cyclone Idai, which killed his brother, Johnson Mwarumba, April 2019 Chimanimani Tourist Association

Many people are struggling to feed themselves let alone their pets and livestock, and the SPCA has been helping to feed animals and vaccinate them against diseases that follow natural disasters.

Other members of the Matsetso Stars have been helping to distribute emergency food aid to town residents, repair roads and rebuild houses.

"We got some trainers in. The football team has rebuilt 37 houses since we started," High told RFI. "So they've been incredibly empowered by this, actually."

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