By Andile Tshuma and Thupeyo Muleya
Nine Zimbabweans, including a baby, died on the spot while dozens were injured after an Intercape bus they were travelling on veered off the road and overturned before landing on its side along the N1 highway just outside Polokwane in Limpopo Province in South Africa.
Limpopo Province Spokesperson Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe confirmed the accident and said police were attending the scene.
The identities of the deceased are being withheld as police are yet to notify all the next of kin.
Col Ngoepe, in a statement said the Intercape bus was heading for Johannesburg from Harare.
“The South African Police Service in Westenburg outside Polokwane are investigating a case of culpable homicide, where nine passengers lost their lives in a bus crash which occurred along the N1 South road,” said Col Ngoepe.
She said the bus driver, who is facing culpable homicide charges, lost control of the vehicle around 5AM yesterday
“It is alleged that the bus was travelling from the direction of Polokwane towards Gauteng Province in the early hours of today at about 5AM when the driver allegedly lost control and it overturned,” said Col Ngoepe.
“The bus was carrying 61 passengers including the driver and the crew. Nine out of 61 were certified dead at the scene, all the injured people were taken to different hospitals for medical treatment,” she said.
“The preliminary police investigations revealed that the bus was travelling from Harare in Zimbabwe to Gauteng Province. The deceased were four males, four females and one toddler,” said Col Ngoepe.
She said police were still investigating the actual cause of the accident.
The identification process of all the deceased is still unfolding.
Zimbabwe’s consul-general to South Africa Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro described the incident as unfortunate.
“The consulate has been contacted by the South African authorities and Intercape management regarding this sad development. We are in the preliminary stages of identifying and ascertaining positively how many of the deceased are Zimbabweans.
“We will continue working with our host regarding the processes leading to notification of the deceased’s relatives and conducting the appropriate repatriation. On behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe and on our own behalf, we wish to extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to those who lost their beloved ones. May they find strength and solace from the Almighty on this tragic and very sad loss. We also wish all those who were injured quick recovery,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro.
Limpopo Premier Mr Chupu Mathabatha noted with regret the passing on of the Zimbabweans.
“We note with concern the death of people in yet another bus accident in Polokwane. This comes after 11 people en-route from Zambia to Johannesburg passed on in a bus accident again near Polokwane earlier this week, making the total number of bus deaths to 21 in one week,” he said.
The Premier extended his condolences to the relatives of the accident victims. He also commended the emergency services, police and traffic officials for assisting the injured and the survivors of the road accident.
“I want to urge drivers, taxi and bus operators to assist in preserving the lives of their passengers on the road. As we approach the festive season, we will tighten up law enforcement and be merciless against transgressors”, he said.
The N1 is the major commercial road which links South Africa and the rest of Sadc countries north of the Limpopo River.
The road has become a death trap with over 30 people including Zimbabweans and Malawians having died in accidents in the last eight months. The Chronicle