Zimbabwe Horror Crush Death Toll Rises To 50
The death toll in the road accident involving Smart Express and Bolt Cutter buses that occurred on Wednesday evening at the 156 km peg along the Harare-Mutare Highway has risen from 47 to 50.
Police Officer Commanding Rusape District Superintendent Isaac Gowe confirmed that 45 people died on the spot, while five others died the following morning at Rusape General Hospital.
Following the accident, Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Joel Biggie Matiza yesterday read the riot act to public service vehicle operators, accusing them of recklessness. Matiza, who was accompanied by Manicaland provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba and provincial administrator Edgar Seenza, among other several government officials, toured the accident scene before visiting close to 80 survivors at Rusape General Hospital.
“We are going to take strong measures against reckless drivers. There are some drivers with fake licences and the government, through the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID), we are putting systems to stop that,” he said.
“Owners of buses should make sure that their buses are fit to go on the roads. Make sure that you have correct drivers on the roads. We have asked the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe to foot the bills for the injured.”
Gwaradzimba said speed limits targeting bus drivers should be introduced.
“Bus drivers should be limited on their speed. I was at the scene where the accident happened at Torish Farm. It’s a black spot and the government should be able to put signs to show that it is a black spot. I am pleading to you, the Minister of Transport, to assist.”
“Our statistics indicate that at the moment 50 people were killed, while 80 were injured. From that number, two were discharged while three are critical and have been taken to Harare for special treatment,” she added.
Gwaradzimba said Rusape mortuary was overwhelmed with bodies and Nyaradzo Funeral Services had come to the rescue.
Following the accident, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has reportedly donated $500 to each bereaved family and the Insurance Council of Zimbabwe will help foot the medical bills for the injured passengers. It has also been revealed that each bereaved family would get $1, 350.
Local Government minister July Moyo on Thursday said he had requested Mnangagwa to declare the accident a state of disaster and ordered the Civil Protection Unit to assist bereaved families.
“I have ordered the civil protection structures at Rusape and Manicaland province to swiftly and compassionately attend to the affected,” he said.
Meanwhile, preliminary police investigations revealed that the driver of the Smart Express bus, who was coming from Mutare, overtook a haulage truck and a Toyota Wish vehicle in a prohibited zone. Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said in the middle of overtaking, the driver saw an oncoming bus and tried to return to his lane, but failed.
“In a bid to avoid a head-on collision, he swerved off the road to the extreme right, hit the Bolt Cutter bus on the left side. Both buses sustained extensive damage, which resulted in the killing and injuring of passengers,” Charamba said, adding the police would close in on all vehicle operators, drivers and roads users who put profit and speed above human life.
Police are said to be still searching for the Smart Express bus driver identified as Cosmas Marembo who fled together with his conductor soon after surviving the horrific bus accident and have appealed to the public who could be aware of their whereabouts to contact the nearest police station.