Leroy Dzenga and Nyemudzai Kakore Features Writers
Zimbabwe was plunged into mourning on Wednesday evening when a bus driver’s impatience cost the nation 46 lives and left many injured.
The accident occurred at the 160km peg along the Harare-Mutare Highway near Rusape around 5.30pm on a stretch of the road where overtaking is clearly prohibited.
What could have been avoided by obeying clear road rules and signs resulted in the biggest traffic carnage the country has seen in a long time.
Images from the accident scene were gruesome; many news platforms could not even upload censored versions of the images.
For the Chamanga family, a routine check on their relative brought them face-to-face with unexpected heartbreak.
Douglas Chamanga’s family was not aware that he was travelling on that day.
“I did not know that my brother Douglas was travelling to Mutare. But from Wednesday afternoon, he was not picking his phone.
“In the evening, we got to hear of the accident on the news, but it did not ring a bell in our minds that he could have been on one of the buses,” his younger brother, Farai, said.
But the family was anxious because Douglas’ silence was unusual.
“The following day, we tried his phone again, but it was not going through. We suspected that something was wrong because that was so unlike him,” Chamanga said.
With news of a tragic accident doing rounds, they decided to travel to see if their relative was not involved.
“We resolved to travel to Rusape to check among the victims and we found his body there.
First, we saw his national identification card and went on to identify his body.
“It was a difficult experience, we were not expecting to find him in the mortuary.”
One of the survivors, Seti Mushanyuka (36), is convinced if it had not been for divine mercy, he would have perished in the deadly mishap.
“I live in Mozambique. I had travelled to Zimbabwe to resolve a family dispute in Murehwa.
“On my way back with my sister, brother-in-law and three other relatives, we boarded a Bolt Cutter bus at Simon Muzenda terminus at around 3pm,” Mushanyuka said.
As is the case with most buses that ply the Harare-Mutare route, Mushanyuka said the bus was speeding from the time it left Harare.
“As we were approaching the 160km peg, I saw a Smart Express bus encroaching into our lane,” he said.
Being a pastor, Mushanyuka claims he saw visions just as the accident was about to happen.
“I saw a vision of a dark cloud which was descending between the two buses.
“That is when I bowed my head and asked God to save me and my family members. When I lifted my head again, I saw a huge hand which pushed our bus aside,” he said in a stranger than fiction narration.
“I then saw the Smart Express bus hitting a tree and going off the road.
“This is when I knew we had survived. People were being thrown out of windows, it was a scary sight,” Mushanyuka said.
The six of them survived with treatable injuries.
Givemore Dzobo (55), a passenger in the Smart Express who had just been discharged from hospital after surviving the horror crash, said the bus driver identified as Cosmas Marembo, who has since surrendered himself to the police after he initially fled the scene of the accident, was speeding.
He said upon boarding the bus in Mutare, Marembo received a phone call from a woman whom he promised to pick up in Marondera at exactly 6pm.
“I had travelled to Mutare from Harare to attend my father’s memorial service,” he said.
“I boarded the Smart Express bus at around 3pm on Wednesday. During the journey, our driver was warned by other passengers that he was speeding, but he never listened,” said Dzobo.
The driving was bad. It is said one passenger disembarked along the way because she was scared.
“One of the passengers dropped off in Rusape as she didn’t feel safe because of the speed. As we approached Torrish Farm, 160km from Harare, our driver tried to overtake, a move which resulted in the accident,” Dzobo said.
Washaya Obadia (50), another passenger in the Smart Express bus, said Marembo should take full responsibility for the accident. He said Marembo failed to abide by the rules and regulations stipulated in the Road Traffic Act.
“The Smart Express bus was overtaking two heavy trucks going to Harare and side swiped the oncoming Bolt Cutter bus,” said Obadia.
After failing to negotiate over the continuous prohibition line, the driver hit a tree with a huge impact.
Obadia added; “What I remember next is seeing people lying in a pool of blood on the tarmac and roadside.
“Some had been thrown off the bus. Others were calling for help, while some lay motionless. I prayed to God, thanking him for sparing my life from such negligent driving.”
As health personnel battle to stop the death toll from rising, questions are being asked about the quality of drivers on our roads.
There is need for thorough scrutiny of people who drive passenger service vehicles to minimise accidents of this nature in future.
Just one moment of madness has robbed families of their loved ones.
Others will have to live with disabilities as a result of the accident.