Bus licence cancelled as 8 Anglicans perish in blaze The shell of the Passion Link coach that caught fire while ferrying Anglican Church pilgrims from Bernard Mizeki Shrine in Marondera to Manicaland on Sunday night. The incident occurred along the Nyabadza-Gandanzara Road in Makoni District. — Picture: Tinai Nyadzayo.

Samuel Kadungure in RUSAPE

THE operating licence of Passion Link Coaches has been cancelled by Government after a blaze inside an unroadworthy bus burnt eight Anglican Diocese of Manicaland pilgrims returning from their shrine at Bernard Mzeki in Marondera beyond recognition.

The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Felix Mhona, said the company’s licence was being withdrawn because the bus was being driven without a certificate of fitness.

Both the owner of the company and the bus driver will be prosecuted.

Ten other passengers were injured — three of them seriously and these were rushed to Rusape General Hospital, where authorities said they were recuperating.

The hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Stewart Karembo, said six people were still admitted while one was transferred to Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital in Mutare for further management, after sustaining 40 percent body burns. 

Three other victims were treated and discharged.

The accident occurred on Sunday at around 8pm near Gandanzara Business Centre, about 44km along the Nyabadza-Gandanzara Road. The pilgrims were returning to their rural homes in Sherukuru in Mutasa District.

National police spokesperson Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the bus had 66 passengers on board when it caught fire, and 58 managed to escape while eight were presumed dead. 

He said more details will be released as forensic investigations are in progress to positively identify the eight victims.

“Currently six victims are hospitalised, two of them with severe burns. We have one body retrieved from the wreckage and taken to the mortuary. There are seven others who are still to be accounted for and investigations are in progress.”

The bus experienced several mechanical faults along the way, including a faulty clutch, and on approaching the 26km peg along the road, passengers noticed smoke coming out of the engine and alerted the driver, Ray Donald Mugari (40), who promptly stopped to investigate the source of the smoke. 

Mugari allegedly opened the engine cover inside the bus near the passengers’ door, and immediately a ball of fire engulfed the whole bus. 

Mugari and 57 other passengers escaped from the burning bus through the door and emergency exit windows, while eight people were trapped inside and burnt to death.

A forensic team from the police headquarters was on the ground, together with local emergency teams to identify and arrange the bodies for positive identification. 

Minister Mhona toured the scene of the accident yesterday before visiting the survivors at Rusape General Hospital, together with the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Advocate Misheck Mugadza, and other stakeholders.

Minister Mhona said the country was losing an average of five people per day due to unroadworthy coaches plying the country’s roads.

He said the Passion Link Coaches bus involved in the accident had no certificate of fitness and as a result, Government had revoked the company’s operating licence with immediate effect.

“We are mourning the loss of precious lives in this bus accident together. President Mnangagwa was deeply troubled by this tragic incident and asked me to come on the ground to get the correct facts on what really transpired. The President is conveying his condolences to the bereaved families. 

“As a ministry, we are saddened by the number of accidents on our roads every week, and we are working hard to come up with more effective strategies to curb road accidents. 

“From the facts we have gathered, this bus was not roadworthy and frequently experienced mechanical faults along the way. The bus operator has openly admitted that the bus had no certificate of fitness, meaning it was not roadworthy. A bus that does not have a certificate of fitness should not be used to ferry people, and the police will arrest both the bus owner and driver as part of investigations. 

“The other buses from this company will not be allowed to ply our roads again with immediate effect. We have cancelled their operating permit, which means we will not allow them to ply our roads for the purpose of carrying people. If they had complied with the traffic laws, which do not allow buses without a certificate of fitness to ply our roads, this accident could have been avoided. 

“As Government, we are going to see how we will assist the bereaved families and the accident victims. It is so sad that we are losing an average of five lives per day to road carnages,” said Minister Mhona.

Minister Mugadza said it was a black Sunday for Manicaland.

“We are mourning the loss of lives that could have been avoided. It was a black Sunday for our province because this could have been averted had the bus operator been more careful and withdrew it from the road. We convey our condolences to the bereaved families. We would like to thank President Mnangagwa for the massive road rehabilitation works, and public vehicle operators should complement such efforts by observing road rules to avoid road tragedies,” he said.

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