George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
TWENTY-ONE people, including the driver and his conductor, were killed while 45 others were injured when a Beitbridge-bound bus veered off the road and crashed into a tree along the Masvingo-Beitbridge Road early yesterday morning.
A two-month-old baby was among the deceased.
The accident occurred near Ngundu Growth Point.
Twenty people died on the spot, whi-le one person was pronounced dead on admission to Masvingo General Hospital.
The Air Force of Zimbabwe yesterday afternoon airlifted nine critically injured survivors with severe head injuries and fractures to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
The driver of the bus, which belongs to MegaLink Bus Company, reportedly failed to negotiate a curve at the 92km peg at around 2am.
The coach was on its way to Beitbridge from Harare when tragedy stru-ck.
At the time of the crash, the bus had 59 adult passengers and seven children on board.
Masvingo provincial police spokes-person Inspector Tineyi Matake said the bodies of the deceased were taken to Masvingo General Hospital mortuary.
Some of the injured were receiving treatment at Neshuro and Chivi district hospitals.
“Preliminary indications are that that the driver failed to negotiate a curve and the bus veered off the road and hit a tree,” Insp Matake said.
Police have since opened a post at Masvingo General Hospital to help relatives identify the victims.
Insp Matake said they had positively identified eight people and informed their relatives.
Those identified were Melody Manyeruke (43) of Chitungwiza, Makatendeka Chingodzo (2 months), Phyllis Mlambo of Mazowe, Arthur Gopoza (age and residential address not given), Aneti Chingodzo (6), Diana Mutikinyi, Temba Zimhamba and Prisca Koga.
Masvingo Provincial Governor and Resident Minister Titus Maluleke visited the accident scene yesterday and described the day as sad for the entire nation.
He urged bus operators to put in place adequate measures to protect passengers.
“I want to challenge bus operators to put in place adequate measures and protect the lives of innocent travellers who continue to fall victim, sometimes to reckless driving,’’ he said.
He urged the Government to speed up the dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge Road to curb carnage.
Secretary for Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Mr Partson Mbiriri also visited the scene.
He castigated bus operators for failing to stick to their timetables, saying the Government will take stern measures against errant drivers.
“There is a very serious issue of adhering to timetables which operators are ignoring and it’s a serious cause for concern to us as Government,” he said.
Mr Mbiriri said the ill-fated bus was scheduled to travel from Harare to Plumtree at 7am yesterday.
The bus, according to Mr Mbiriri, however, left Harare for Beitbridge at 2am.
“This is a serious offence and action will be taken against bus companies that disregard their timetables,” he said.
Mr Mbiriri said there were indications that the bus was speeding.
He said bus operators should engage two drivers for a trip and visited Masvingo General Hospital.
Mr Mbiriri also inspected the wreckage of the bus at VID Masvingo Depot.
People at the scene of the accident blamed the Masvingo Fire Brigade for coming with obsolete equipment.
“It’s painful that some people were trapped to death and if the Fire Brigade had arrived earlier some of them would have lived.
“The Fire Brigade was also poorly equipped to rescue the trapped people,” Mr Lameck Museva said.
Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo said the accident dampened the celebratory mood in Zimbabwe ahead of the country’s 32nd Independence anniversary tomorrow.
“As happened in Nyanga, the element of speed cannot be discounted from the causal factors of the accident,” he said.
Eighteen members of the Johanne Masowe weChishanu died in an accident in Nyanga three weeks ago.
Minister Chombo urged drivers to exercise caution while transporting people during the holiday.
“Passengers on their part should contribute towards their safe passage by vocalising their disquiet to speeding drivers.
“Reports of errant drivers should be made to the police manning the nu-merous roadblocks along major highways,” he said.
Minister Chombo said the Government will assist families of the victims with US$200 each.