Yet another road accident has occurred and, like many before it, claimed a big number of our people.
This time it happened in Tsholotsho where a truck carrying 69 civil servants on a malaria control programme in Matabeleland North crashed, killing 21 people and injuring 48 on Saturday at around 4PM.
As we report in our lead story today, it is believed that the driver was at fault. Witnesses said he was speeding and apparently drunk.
As he was speeding and drunk, the driver failed to negotiate a bend at the 35KM peg along the Tsholotsho-Sipepa Road near Jimila Centre. The truck, bound for Jimila Clinic in Tsholotsho veered off the road, overturned and later landed on its roof.
It is sad that the people met their end when they had effectively arrived at the final destination, only 300m away from the clinic.
National Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said: “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.”
We are saddened by the regularity and gravity of accidents occurring on our roads.
The human cost of the frequent road accidents is indescribable. Hundreds are being killed and maimed in the crashes and many more are widowed and orphaned as a result. The pain that survivors endure is immense.
We will leave police to carry out their investigations to establish the real cause of the crash but, as we mentioned earlier and as witnesses told us, the man who was behind the wheel was drunk and driving at an excessive speed. We condemn his conduct, if indeed the witnesses are right, and blame him for causing a crash that had claimed 21 people, orphaning scores more and causing much physical and emotional pain to the 48.
We quote Mr Wilcot Nkomo, a survivor saying: “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 over quite some distance at five kilometres per hour to provoke us after we had complained that he was speeding. He later increased speed and when the accident occurred he approached the curve at 120km per hour. At that speed, he failed to negotiate the curve.”
It cannot be amiss for us to take the 21 dead and the 48 injured as national heroes noting that they died as they were on a very important national assignment. Tsholotsho, like most districts in Matabeleland North, is malarial. Dozens are killed by the disease yearly with more falling sick due to malaria.
Here we had a team of dedicated civil servants, discharging their honourable duties in very difficult circumstances. The mere fact that they were travelling in a Nissan UD truck from distant Nkayi to Tsholotsho is clear testimony of the physical discomfort they endured in the course of duty. Indeed they are national heroes who died while honourably serving their country, trying to alleviate the malaria burden in the province.
It is sad.
The accident will most probably disrupt the anti-malaria residual spraying programme in Matabeleland North. This means that the Government might need to come up with a completely new team to continue with the activity. Doing this will need time, more manpower and more resources. We don’t think there is much time for that at this stage of the rainy season.
Nevertheless, we implore the Government to mobilise a new team and enough resources for the programme to continue.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday declared the accident a national disaster, which means that in terms of that designation, the Government will take over burial expenses from the victims’ families and relatives.
Once again, we implore our drivers to always obey road rules and regulations. They must not drink and drive. They must not speed. On the other hand, passengers have the responsibility and right to tell a speeding driver to reduce speed. In the Tsholotsho case, the passengers in the truck could have called their bosses, reporting the speeding driver before the crash.