Freeman Razemba, Harare Bureau
A fatal bus accident has seen Government with immediate effect suspending operators’ licences for Rimbi Tours and Zebra Kiss.
The accident happened along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway at the 160km peg on Tuesday at around 4pm after the driver of a Rimbi Tours coach was trying to overtake a Zebra Kiss bus before hitting the rear end of the tipper truck which was also travelling in the same direction.
The suspension means the operators’ buses will be withdrawn from all the routes they were plying and only resume operations once authorities have reviewed the situation and satisfied themselves that they are fully compliant with the terms of the law.
In a video that has gone viral on social media, two buses can be seen bound in the same direction on a narrow highway. The driver of the leading bus from Zebra Kiss then fails to take heed of a horn warning from the Rimbi bus intending to overtake.
Without warning, the Zebra Kiss bus overtakes a tipper truck while the Rimbi driver rams into the back of the truck.
Police investigations have revealed that the bus drivers were probably racing and blocking each other along the road, putting the lives of passengers in danger.
In a statement yesterday, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona said the suspension was with immediate effect pending corrective measures by the two operators to ensure that they were in a position to resume operations without breach of the terms and conditions under which their licences were issued.
“The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development has noted with great concern the video circulating on social media, which captures the circumstances leading to the fatal road traffic accident that occurred on 17 January 2023 in Mutoko District along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway.
“The video and circumstances of the accident, which have been verified, involves two passenger transport service vehicles of an omnibus type belonging to Rimbi Travel and Tours (Pvt) Ltd and Tashllyt Investments (Pvt) Ltd trading as Zebra Kiss.
“Pursuant to the fatal accident, which has so far claimed one life and caused serious injury of many passengers, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and other actors in the ecosystem of road traffic management, including the
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) and emergency health services has established the component of human error, prohibited by Sections 51, 52 and 53 of the Road Traffic Act as the principal cause of the accident,” said Minister Mhona.
Sections 51, 52 and 53 of the Road Traffic Act prohibit driving without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for others, negligent or dangerous driving and reckless driving. Any violation was a breach of the terms and conditions of the two operators’ licences issued for them to operate in Zimbabwe.
The Minister said informed by the noted violations and verified video graphic circumstances, the Commissioner of Road Transport, invoked provisions of Section 17 (1) (b) (i) of the same Act and suspended the licences of Rimbi Travel and Tours and Tashllyt Investments Trading as Zebra Kiss from operating all its buses on all the routes as authorised by the Ministry.
The two operators in question had been notified of the intention and given a reasonable opportunity to make representations on the matter in terms of Section 17 (2) of the Road Motor Transportation Act.
“This suspension is with immediate effect pending corrective measures by the two operators to ensure that they are in a position to resume operations without breach of the terms and conditions under which their licences are issued. Section 17 (1) (b) (i) of the Road Motor Transportation Act empowers the Commissioner of Road Transport to suspend the operator’s license where it appears that there is disregard of the terms and conditions of the licences.
“I have directed that this provision be implemented dutifully, consistently and religiously going forward, with the view to weed out all errant operators from our roads,” he said.
He said in view of the incessant road fatalities being recorded on the roads, he had taken a bold stance to reduce road carnage as the Minister responsible for administering laws and regulations on road traffic and safety management.
“This is in line with targets contained in the National Development Strategy (2021-2025), which seeks to reduce road accidents and fatalities by a 25 percent margin per annum. Going forward, we shall build on this momentum of strict enforcement of road motor transportation and safety for the safety and well-being of the people.
“I wish to remind and warn all transport operators, associations, motorists and members of the public that the Ministry will take stern measures provided by our laws against those who wantonly and blatantly violate road traffic rules and regulations.
“The safety and security of all commuting public cannot be taken for granted. We will not hesitate to suspend and cancel licences of operators who violate terms and conditions of such licenses, traffic rules and regulations. We urge all road traffic law enforcement agencies to be on high alert to enforce the road traffic laws and ensure that operators with suspended and cancelled licenses do not ply our roads,” Minister Mhona said.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said both drivers and management faced arrest as investigations into the fatal accident continue.
“We are still investigating the case. We are however also going to engage the Zimbabwe Passengers Transport Association for the conduct of bus drivers that we are seeing on the roads.
“It is not good for the safety of passengers and also that they are violating traffic rules and regulations,” he said.
Meanwhile, the bus operators have since apologised to the nation.
In a joint statement yesterday, Zebra Kiss managing director Mr Tangisai Mapuranga and Rimbi Tours director Mr Decent Rimbi said: “We would like to apologise to the entire nation for the road traffic accident that occurred along Nyamapanda Highway on Tuesday that was caused by mere driving negligence. The accident claimed one of our staff members.
“Our deepest condolences for the loss of life, injuries and trauma experienced by our supporting passengers and staff members. We wish a speedy recovery to those injured and we will be catering for their welfare while in hospital including medical expenses. For the bereaved family we have since got in touch with them rendering the necessary assistance.”
The operators said they take full responsibility for the reckless driving exhibited by their drivers and have since taken internal disciplinary measures while the police have also instigated appropriate measures.
“With immediate effect all our drivers will be taken for refresher courses to ensure guaranteed safety on the roads.
“To the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development we would like to assure you of our commitment to continue serving the public with safety of passengers, motorists and the general public being our sole concern,” reads the statement.