By Tadious Manyepo
A sombre atmosphere engulfed the Dynamos offices at the National Sports Stadium yesterday as one of the survivors of the accident that claimed nine supporters in 2016, Maxwell Machisi, gave a chilling account of what transpired on the day.
Nine DeMbare fans lost their lives while 16 were injured, two of them seriously, when the kombi they were travelling on burst a rear tyre, rolled several times before landing on its roof at the 173-kilometre peg near Battlefields on June 11, 2016.
They were on their way to Gweru to cheer their team in a league match against Chapungu at Ascot.
And a dark cloud hung over the giant stadium when Machisi was given the floor to address the close to 50 people including the families of the deceased, supporters as well as some members of the team’s executive.
So graphic were the details, that one lady, Antonneta Gwasira, who lost both her siblings, Spencer and Galileo in that crash, had to be helped out by her husband, Collen, who together with one of Spencer’s three orphans had accompanied her to the function.
The Dynamos supporters have since 2017 been donating food hampers to the families of the nine fans who perished in that crash.
And yesterday, they defied the hardships brought about by the coronavirus-induced lockdown to honour their pledge to those families.
Antonneta, who stayed with Galileo, said she first learnt of her siblings’ passing on in that accident when both of them failed to pick up their phones after she had seen an ominous message on a WhatsApp group platform.
“We were only three in our family. I am the oldest. Spencer stayed alone while his wife and three kids were living in our rural home in Murehwa. He was 32 years old at the time of his death,” she said while sobbing.
“Galileo didn’t have a family at the time of his death at 27 years. I stayed with him at my house. Our parents died when we were still very young in the late 1990s. So I was like their mother and in them, I also saw my father.
“Both were street vendors. They loved football in general and Dynamos in particular. So on the fateful day, Galileo bid me an ominous goodbye but I never minded him. Instead I said today the team might fail you and we laughed it off.
“The next thing was seeing some graphic images on mangled bodies on WhatsApp and trying to call both Galileo and Spencer, but neither was picking.”
After an hour of relentless calling, Antonneta, with the help of her husband decided to visit the scene of the accident but just after passing Norton, Spencer’s phone called her but, it wasn’t her brother at the end of the line.
“It was man’s voice but realising it wasn’t Spencer’s, I started to shiver. My worst fears would soon be confirmed. The man just asked me whether I was related to Spencer and where I was. I told him I was on my way to Kwekwe and he said I should drop off at Chegutu hospital as he had been involved in an accident.
“Apparently unaware of what she had been through, another voice sounding similar to the one which had called her moments before, she also received the same news this time via Galileo’s phone.”
Antonnete would soon discover both her siblings had perished in that accident.
“It wasn’t easy to fathom. It was too much. Just like that, I was all alone, without my siblings who had been with me through thick and thin after losing our parents.”
Spencer’s orphans are now under her guardianship after their mother crossed the border to look for greener pastures in South Africa recently.
Antonneta hailed the initiative by the Dynamos supporters.
“I just want to thank Dynamos supporters for this gesture. It is not every day that you find this kind of support. This is a very difficult period for everyone. I am a vendor, so is my husband and we are struggling to raise both my family and my brother’s children.
“This shows that Dynamos is such a beautiful family to be part of. We are thankful for this.”
Dynamos vice-chairman Moses Shumba said the Glamour Boys would support this initiative in future and hailed the club’s supporters.
He also took time to thank Highlanders Harare Chapter led by Tawanda Mudzengi who also chipped in with resources to help the families of the deceased.
“I salute you. This is a great initiative and as the executive, we are fully behind you. The nine supporters will be remembered for years and years to come. Dynamos is nothing without your support,” he said.
“And to have Highlanders supporters rallying behind this initiative is a great sign that our football is growing. We should only be enemies for 90 minutes and beyond that, we embrace each other as brothers and sisters. I salute you Highlanders fans.”
Dynamos head coach Tonderai Ndiraya, and chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze, also graced the occasion.
Galileo Muchemwa, Spencer Gwasira, Prince Nheweyembwa, Rukudzo Mahupete, Patience Murefu, Peter Maemba, Kimberly Nduku, Violet Tauzeni and Rast Nezandoyi perished in that accident some say would have been avoided had the defective tyres been replaced before departure.
For the first time since the initiative came into place three years ago, survivors, including Machisi, also received food hampers. The Herald