21 perish in horror crash

HARARE – Twenty-one officials from the ministry of Health and Child Care died on Saturday night when a truck they were travelling in overturned at a sharp curve in Jimila, Matabeleland North Province.

Fifteen of the officials died on the spot while six others died on admission at Tsholotsho District Hospital.

The truck had 50 people.

The accident occurred around 9pm when the officials who were part of a team that was involved in malaria control in Nkayi District, were relocating to Tsholotsho, after completing their mission.

Tsholotsho district administrator, Gladys Zizhou, confirmed the accident yesterday saying the victims had travelled to the malaria-prone district as part of a programme by the ministry of Health and Child Care to control the spread of malaria.

She said preliminary investigations established that the driver of the UD truck failed to negotiate a sharp curve in Jimila area, resulting in the truck overturning and rolling several times before landing on its roof.

“The information which we have at the moment indicates that the truck overturned after the driver failed to negotiate the sharp curve in Jimila and 15 people died on the spot while six died on admission at Tsholotsho District Hospital,” she said.

“The remaining passengers whose number I am yet to ascertain were rushed to Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and they are reported to be in very critical conditions. Fears are that the death toll could still rise according to correspondence we are receiving from the hospital,” she added.

Matabeleland North provincial medical director, Nyasha Masuka, also confirmed the incident.

“I am at the hospital now (Tsholotsho District Hospital) monitoring the situation. I will be able to communicate further details later,” he said.

Masuka said the driver of the government-owned truck had been drinking and driving prior to the accident.

“According to some of the survivors whom we spoke to, the truck driver was drinking, driving and speeding. They told us that they had actually warned him three times about the dangers of drinking and driving but instead, he protested and started driving at about 20km/hr and when the passengers complained again, he hit 120km/hr (as he) approached a sharp curve. That is when he lost control of the vehicle resulting in the tragic accident,” he said.

Asked why the ministry officials were using a UD truck instead of conventional buses, Masuka, had this to say: ”Spray operators have always used these trucks to move from one area of operating to the other”.

National police spokesperson, Charity Charamba was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Her deputy, Paul Nyathi, however, told the Daily News that they were compiling a statement which would be circulated to the media.

Many people are dying on Zimbabwe’s worn out roads and highways.

Official statistics from the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) indicate that at least 2 000 people die from road traffic accidents annually.

TSCZ says deaths in traffic accidents have already exceeded the 2 000 this year before the start of the festive season which historically claims no less than 100 lives.

Some of the major road traffic disasters that have been recorded this year include the Pro-liner bus crash of April 6, which claimed 31 lives; the King Lion bus disaster which killed 43 people in June; the Dema kombi crash in which 10 people perished in the same month; the Centenary accident which claimed 10 lives in July and the Kamativi lorry crash of August 24 which claimed 12 lives.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1,3 million people are killed on the world’s roads annually with over 50 million injured.

About 90 percent of these deaths occur in developed countries.

Early this year, government warned of the need by stakeholders to work together to safeguard lives on the roads in the wake of shocking revelations that traffic accidents are having a huge negative impact on Zimbabwe’s economy, costing the country $406 million annually, the equivalent of 2,9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Zimbabwe’s GDP is estimated at $14 billion and is projected to grow by over three percent this year following a good farming season.

The loss of lives from road accidents translates into a huge economic toll on the financially troubled southern African country.