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Road accidents take their toll on Zimbabwe

On November 13 this year, the historic city of Marrakech in Morocco opened a high-level forum on road safety. 

Around 11pm a Musina bound Brooklyn Express Bus caught fire at the 182km peg along the Bulawayo- Beitbridge Road near West Nicholson area in Gwanda following a suspected gas cylinder explosion.
Around 11pm a Musina bound Brooklyn Express Bus caught fire at the 182km peg along the Bulawayo- Beitbridge Road near West Nicholson area in Gwanda following a suspected gas cylinder explosion.

An excerpt from the speech by the host government‘s leader, King Mohammed VI Nasrallah, declared:

“To this end, we believe that it is essential for African States to define practical goals based on the continent’s real priorities. Africa no longer need ideological slogans, but concrete and decisive action…”

There is a clear recognition that Africa, in basically all areas of endeavour, excels in rhetoric than walking the talk.

Sadly, such cheap talk comes at a huge price.

Ahead of that forum, a tragic Rusape bus disaster had claimed 50 people, and left more than 80 others injured.

The wreckages of Bolt Cutter and Smart Express buses that collided head-on at the 166km peg along the Harare-Mutare Highway, killing 47 people and leaving 70 others injured yesterday evening
The wreckages of Bolt Cutter and Smart Express buses that collided head-on at the 166km peg along the Harare-Mutare Highway, killing 47 people and leaving 70 others injured yesterday evening

That same month fire swept through a passenger bus killing 30 people and leaving at least 20 injured, some with severe burns.

The accident happened in Gwanda District, about 550 kilometers south-west of Harare.

A number of serious road accidents have also been recorded in the past.

A King Lion bus, on June 8, 2017, killed an astonishing 45 people in the Nyamakate area of Hurungwe in a single-vehicle accident exhibiting tell-tale signs of speeding and subsequent loss of control.

A tow truck recovers the wreckage of a King Lion bus that veered off the road and hit a tree killing 45 people in Nyamakate, Hurungwe – Picture by Walter Nyamukondiwa
A tow truck recovers the wreckage of a King Lion bus that veered off the road and hit a tree killing 45 people in Nyamakate, Hurungwe – Picture by Walter Nyamukondiwa

On July 19, 2015, a bus from the same company had killed eight people in the Kafue area of Zambia, on its way to Zimbabwe.

And on April 6, 2017 a Proliner bus killed 31, injuring 43 others near Masvingo.

The chief of infamy, the now-defunct Mhunga Bus Company, in August of 2009 on the unloved Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge highway, collided with a haulage truck resulting in the immediate deaths of 40 people. 

Another Mhunga Bus, in an earlier tragedy, in November 2002, killed 37 in a head-on collision. 

The Mhunga Bus Company, following a public outcry, lost its trading licence for months, and due to the pressure of such in-operation and bad publicity, the company helpfully quit the business. 

No one misses them I guess!

Then, in the mother-of-all-bus-accidents that must surely rank as one of the very worst in global motoring history, a Regina Coeli School bus killed 89 students and teachers in August 1991, in the mountainous terrain of Nyanga after what was described by the few survivors as “possessed driving” as the speeding driver ignored all frantic pleas to slow down.

Kombis, a name adapted from ‘combination vehicle’, have also let in on the sick bloodletting game, with many innocent people losing life-and-limb in the sickening Game of Death.

One early March morning, in Harare’s Tynwald suburb, a speeding Kombi driver foolishly raced a train at a level crossing. 

The subsequent accident robbed 35 hustling market traders of their precious, productive lives. 

Near Chinhamo, sometime in 2014, a speeding Kombi lost control and veered into a tree. 

Seven died on the spot. 

Dozens of such commuter accidents have occurred across the trunk road network of Zimbabwe. 

Needless to say, many hundreds perished in these smaller PSVs. 

The obligatory but useless official appeal to drivers to drive cautiously is issued by the ministry of Transport each time this happens as-well-as by the police but that is where it all ends; just harmless talk.

In Zimbabwe, road traffic safety matters are never prioritised. They only take centre-stage, regrettably, in the immediate aftermath of a deadly accident.

While government is always quick to declare horrific accidents a national disaster to allow emergence services to speedily provide help to those affected, it inexplicably and imprudently allows the offenders to continue ferrying passengers, clearly exposing innocent citizens to grave danger.

The slow-learning government has apparently learnt little, if anything, from many previous horror bus accidents. 

In every incident, one factor stands out; excessive speeding by the drivers. 

Hundreds of innocent people have lost precious lives to the idiotic driving of many public transport drivers in recent years. 

In almost every case, the serviceability of the vehicles has not been in question but the careless speeding.

Questions have also been raised about some of the old, poorly-maintained regional roads.

Deputy Transport minister Fortune Chase recently suggested a cocktail of measures to tame the road carnage.

In a tweet, he said. “To deal with traffic tragedies we need to start from before boarding; comfort issues inside, speed, road condition, adequacy of insurance etc, vehicle owner responsibilities etc.”

We can only hope that our government sees the light regarding road traffic accidents. Daily News

*Maguranyanga is a citizen road safety advocate

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