Nqobile Tshili Chronicle Correspondent—
THREE people died and 19 were seriously injured when a kombi allegedly trafficking 21 Ethiopians to South Africa burst a tyre and overturned near Shangani yesterday. The accident occurred at the 60 kilometre peg along the Bulawayo-Harare highway at around 1AM. Police confirmed that the Zimbabwean driver died on admission at the United Bulawayo Hospitals while two Ethiopians died on the spot.
Only the conductor, also a Zimbabwean, escaped unhurt. The vehicle was a write-off. National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said the two Ethiopians died from head injuries.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to confirm the death of two foreigners and a local driver who died in an accident. The Toyota Hiace they were travelling in burst its front tyre, veered off the road and overturned before landing on its left side,” said Chief Supt Nyathi.
He said police are investigating how the foreigners entered the country as there was speculation that they were being trafficked to South Africa. “As police we’re conducting investigations on the presence of foreigners in the country,” he said.
Chief Supt Nyathi urged motorists to abide by the country’s road laws to curb unnecessary accidents. He said it was everyone’s duty to observe the country laws. Bulawayo Chief Fire Officer Richard Peterson said all passengers in the ill-fated kombi were Ethiopians.
“All the passengers were of Ethiopian origin. They were rushed to the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Mpilo Central Hospital,” said Peterson. He said 16 passengers were taken to UBH while three were rushed to Mpilo Central Hospital.
“The only person who escaped unhurt was the conductor who was handed over to police,” said Peterson. “Two Fire Brigade ambulances, one from Mpilo Central Hospital and another from Mars Ambulance Services carried the accident victims to the hospitals,” he said.
A witness said the accident scene was horrific as some people had broken limbs. The bodies were lying on the ground while injured passengers sat by the road side some with broken limbs,” said the source.
Another source said the kombi crew was “paid handsomely” to transport the Ethiopians to Bulawayo. “What we understand is that a kombi crew was paid $300 by a truck driver who had smuggled them into Zimbabwe.
“They were going to connect to South Africa using a vehicle that was in Bulawayo,” said the source. The Chronicle arrived at scene as the wreckage was being towed to Bulawayo. It was a miracle that there were people who got out of it alive.