DEATH TOLL HITS 21. . . Horror lorry crash in Tsholotsho

The malaria control team before the crash

The malaria control team before the crash

Whinsley Masara, Chronicle Reporter
TWENTY-ONE health workers died while 48 others were injured when a Matabeleland North Provincial Malaria Control vehicle they were travelling in failed to negotiate a curve and overturned before landing on its roof in Tsholotsho on Saturday.

The accident occurred at around 4PM at the 35KM peg along the Tsholotsho-Sipepa Road near Jimila Centre.

Some passengers were trapped under the Nissan UD truck for more than seven hours as villagers battled to rescue them.

A survivor said the 28-year-old driver who is among the injured, had been speeding when the accident occurred.

The accident victims were members of a Ministry of Health and Child Care’s Malaria Control programme team that was on duty in the province.

They were coming from Nkayi on their way to Jimila Clinic in Tsholotsho and the accident occurred about 300 metres away from their final destination.

 The wreckage of the lorry in which the health workers were packed

The wreckage of the lorry in which the health workers were packed

National Police Spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi confirmed the accident and said investigations were underway.

“Police would like to confirm the death of 21 people who were killed in a fatal road accident that occurred in Tsholotsho.

“The accident occurred after the driver of a Nissan UD truck that was travelling to Tsholotsho with 69 passengers on board failed to negotiate a curve and lost control of the vehicle, which veered off to the right and overturned several times before landing on its roof.

“Fifteen people died on the spot while six others died on admission at Tsholotsho District Hospital,” he said.

Chief Supt Nyathi said bodies of the deceased were taken to Mpilo Central Hospital mortuary while the injured were taken to Mpilo Central Hospital and the United Bulawayo Hospitals.

“Names of the deceased will be released in due course,” he said.

Chief Supt Nyathi urged drivers to safeguard lives on the road.

When a Chronicle news crew arrived at the scene at around 11AM yesterday, Tsholotsho South MP, Cde Zenzo Sibanda, was one of those who were at the scene, which is in Tsholotsho North where Professor Jonathan Moyo was the MP before he was recalled from Parliament last week.

Mr Wilcot Nkomo, who survived the accident and had been taken to Tsholotsho District Hospital after the accident also came to the scene with members of his family who had travelled from Bulawayo.

The curve which the lorry driver failed to negotiate

The curve which the lorry driver failed to negotiate

In an interview, Mr Nkomo said he was lucky to be alive as the driver had been speeding.

He said the truck driver drank “too much” beer in Lupane and they had cautioned him against speeding on the way to Tsholotsho to no avail.

“I am lucky to have survived this accident and it’s sad 21 of my teammates have gone just like that. I definitely blame the driver for his rowdy behaviour and drinking habits. Many a time, we warned him on his reckless driving and speeding. At some point yesterday (Saturday) he drove at five kilometres per hour for a while to provoke us after we had complained that he was speeding,” he said.

“He later increased speed and when the accident occurred he approached the curve at 120km per hour. With that speed, he failed to negotiate the curve.”

Mr Nkomo said when the accident occurred, he was thrown out of the vehicle through the windscreen, while five others and the driver remained trapped for hours.

Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director Dr Nyasha Masuka said the team died while on national duty.

“This team embarked on the malaria control programme on October 1 and had been left with two districts, Tsholotsho and Umguza. It’s unfortunate this mishap happened in the midst of malaria control,” he said.

Dr Masuka said two of the injured people were in the intensive care unit at Mpilo Central Hospital.

He said 11 others suffered severe head injuries while the rest of the victims were in stable conditions.

“We managed to buy special medications for the 17 who were critical and have since sourced other medications from our hospitals within the province,” he said.

The Provincial Administrator, Ms Lathiso Dlamini, said it was sad the incident had robbed the nation of dedicated health workers. “The province has lost health personnel and it is sad to note that the 21 have passed on while serving the nation. We pray the death toll doesn’t increase and as the Civil Protection Unit, we are doing all we can to assist the victims,” she said.

A witness, Mr Busani Mpunzi, who lives near the accident scene said his heart skipped a beat when he saw the truck approaching the curve while speeding.

The driver was seriously speeding and I feared for the passengers’ lives. As I watched, I saw the truck fly into the air, throwing the passengers out like litter.

It occurred like I have only seen on television and I still cannot believe that I watched that happen right in front of my eyes.

“With assistance from other villagers and village heads, we struggled to retrieve the trapped people for as long as seven hours,” he said.

A local traditional leader, Chief Matupula said the community is in great shock.

“We have lost a team of young people full of dreams for the future, the provincial team that had set out to save lives in the province. This indeed is a disaster not only to us as a district but the province as a whole.

“We thank the whole village and village heads who worked well into the night with assistance from civil servants from Jimila and Tsholotsho to take the injured to hospital and to assist to retrieve the trapped victims,” he said.

The chief said he hoped authorities will investigate to ensure a similar accident does not happen again in the area.

“Motorists should learn not to dice with lives at the two sharp corners at Jimila Centre as countless accidents have been witnessed there. Maybe the [department] of roads should consider putting [speed] humps to complement the road signs, as well as to force drivers to reduce speed at those points,” said Chief Matupula.

@winnie_masara

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  • Sad

    Very disturbing news, surely these people were packed like sardines, they should be new regulations forbidding people to be loaded at the back of trucks and lorries. The truck was overloaded and if its true that the young man was drunk, he should have not been allowed to continue driving, the passengers should have arrested him, These are lives lost who were bread winners. Its time passengers decide to become masters of their destiny or else we will continue talking about it and continue to perish.

    • Ndlovu4482

      There’s a law in place. In this case it was never adhered to.

  • Heartbroken

    without blaming the passengers and the victims we as a people should adopt a culture of apprehending these reckless public transport drivers when they start driving like fools. Some of these drivers especially Combi drivers and Honda fit drivers can sometimes be selfish , stupid and stubborn . its up to us to put them in check . we cant let them gamble with our lives . So sad

  • Liberty Musanjeya

    The govt should provide its workers with proper transport rather than buying Ford Rangers for chiefs…..sad

  • Nomorebullshit

    We have buses for party supporters but pack our dedicated workers in lorries ???

    • benjamin

      and so precariously packed for that matter, sitting on top of mounds of load with nothing to hold them inside the truck. Had they been well packed sitting on the floor of the trailer it would have been better. Given the load the truck had, it would have made sense for it to transport the load first and return for the workers later, or better still, to hire a bus for the workers.

  • Nkunzemnyama

    We have a president (former) who one of his many cars consumes 5 litres of fuel per km an his wife, sons and relatives drive rolls-royces and other expensive cars. As if that is not enough, the gvt spends millions of dollars bribing izinduna (for votes) while our healthy workers are packed into lorries/trucks like bags of imbanje. Sad indeed. How possible is that any driver, particularly for a truck will be flying with about 300 metres to stop. This doesnt make sense.

    • kuluma

      and you reappoint Parenyatwa…in the health ministry

  • Martin Chipimo

    May these souls rest in peace. However, the government of MOHCW should be taken to task, so far as the safety of its workers is concerned. How old was the driver? 28 – at that age, to me is still very young to think about safety RATHER THAN the Thrill of speeding.

  • Sukuzukuduma

    i Lori ngeyokuthwala impahla hayi abantu

  • The Observer

    This is a clear testimony that Zimbabwe is an abyss, a hell without panacea, a country whose citizens continue mourning and weeping, tears rolling down cheeks because of gullibility, greediness, poor decisive policies from idiotic management. Surely those who voted in 1980, should be the most regretting beings in this poorly administered country, because up-to-date, there is no clear direction to where the society is going! How can programmes be implemented without basic requirements?

  • taneta

    More than 70 people on board a lorry that’s not serious packed as they were the govt should do something 70 people should have used more than three lorries not one.MSRIP.

  • Bambanani

    69 passengers in a truck, packed like firewood! that shows how abnormal life is in Zimbabwe!!
    May their souls rest in peace

  • Concerned

    please empower police to be professionals and non – corrupt and let them help us on errant drivers. Our people may perish

  • Essexvale

    So very sad ….. all those young lives with such great promise lost forever. sincere condolences to the bereaved!

  • Volcanic Eruption

    May their souls rest in peace. But again, all those people in a truck doing community work? Surely these people deserved a better mode of transport. Honestly! And again a drunk fool behind the steering?

  • Godfrey Gwembere

    This is very touching. May their souls rest in peace.

  • Only me

    Most drunkards in their 20s are an arrogant lot.Now this one has cost us 21lives, sad for days