THE newly-refurbished Plumtree-Mutare Highway has become Zimbabwe’s deadliest road, with Wednesday’s Rusape bus disaster, which claimed 50 lives being one of the many fatalities along the road.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
To motorists who ply the highway, speeding public transport drivers from the Yutong and Zhitong buses is no longer news, especially between Harare and Mutare.
The mini-buses have become popular for their speed and are known for “overtaking even the Mercedes Benz models”.
“I was travelling at 110km/h towards Mutare when one of these mini-buses overtook me like a bullet. It is not good for a public vehicle to travel at such speed. They should stick to their speed limits,” Wellington Marowa (41), who stays in Cherutombo, Marondera, said.
Buses are obliged to travel at a maximum 80km per hour speed on tarred roads.
Speaking on the Rusape fatal accident, an eyewitness said the Smart Express bus driver was speeding such that he was “too confident” of overtaking a haulage truck and Toyota Wish on a curve.
The Harare-bound bus side-swapped a Bolt Cutter bus to mark the country’s deadliest accident this year.
According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, about 90% of road accidents are a result of human error, with speeding and overtaking errors topping the list of major causes of road accidents in Harare.
Government in 2015 introduced Statutory Instrument 129 of 2015 which demands that no person on any road, a passenger public service vehicle unless such a vehicle is fitted with a speed limit device.
However, three years later, nothing has been done to effect the SI 129 despite passengers perishing on the roads every day.
Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza recently ordered police to enforce speed limit devices on all public transport vehicles to avoid road carnage through speeding.
Speaking during a road safety stakeholder meeting held in Harare, Matiza recently said the rebranded Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) should ensure that no public transport vehicle should be on the road without speed limit devices.
“I implore the ZRP to particularly enforce Section 64 (2) of the SI 129 of 2015, which demands that no person on any road, a passenger public service vehicle shall use the roads unless such a vehicle is fitted with a speed limit device. Such devices are speed governors which force drivers to obey speed limits, given speeding is the top-most error committed by our drivers,” Matiza said.
A total of 1 838 deaths were recorded last year, while 10 489 were injured in 42 430 crashes that occurred in 2017, translating to 153 deaths monthly.
The accidents reveal a 10% rise from 2016 figures, which had 38 620 crashes that killed 1 721 travellers.
Passenger Association of Zimbabwe president Tafadzwa Goliath criticised authorities for not taking action as far as implementation of SI 129 is concerned.
“This government doesn’t implement things. They cannot enforce laws and look at the chaos now. Transport operators are not being compliant at all as required by the law. Why do they take long to implement these instruments? They just react when disasters happen. We are tired of this. Passengers should be protected on the roads,” he said.
Traffic safety ambassador and musician Jeys Marabini urged authorities to ensure that public transport vehicles travel within regulated speeds.
Just after its completion, the Plumtree-Mutare Highway has been leading in road accidents in the country as compared to the Beitbridge-Chirundu Road that is regarded as the worst highway in Zimbabwe. The Plumtree-Harare Road recorded 367 crashes, while Harare-Mutare had 202 to give a total of 569 fatal crashes in 2016 alone after being commissioned.
Other high magnitude crashes which occurred along the highway include the Kwekwe National Disaster (March 3, 2016), which killed 31 people and injured 36 as well as the head-on collision between a Toyota Hiace and a Mitsubishi Colt (April 2, 2016) which occurred near Gweru and killed 10 people, while 13 others were injured.
Other fatal accidents also include the Iveco crash (June 11, 2016) near Battlefields Camp that claimed nine lives and injuring 17, with most of the victims being Dynamos supporters going for a soccer match in Gweru.
Top gospel musician, who is also a traffic safety ambassador, Charles Charamba, said it was sad that people were losing lives on such a wide road.
“We are saddened and left poorer by this unfortunate development. This is all adding up to human error, considering that the highway is fairly wide in that part of the country,” he said. Zimbabwe is losing a lot of money and human capital from road accidents. It is estimated that the nation’s 3% gross domestic product is lost on the highway.
Arrive Alive Campaign awareness chief executive officer Isaac Tsikai Simbarasi said responsible authorities should enforce laws to save lives on the country’s roads.
“The November 7 bus disaster was due to speeding, among other factors. I am of the view that the installation of speed limit devices on all public transport vehicles could have helped avoid the accident,” he said.
“We are in a new dispensation and this is the time for responsible authorities to align, implement or enforce all laws on road safety to save lives. The traffic jungle can be tamed if the authorities tighten their belts.”