THE well-constructed road meanders down to the Mutare city centre.
As one descends the picturesque terrain, fresh easterly winds blow across the vicinity, punctuated by a breath-taking view of befitting scenery of the City of Mutare below.
The twisty super highway, nestled within the evergreen, lush and majestic Murahwa Mountain Range, is undoubtedly one of the world’s undocumented natural wonders.
Welcome to the Christmas Pass.
The Christmas Pass is a 7km stretch of a meandering road within the mountainous terrain that leads into the city centre.
The sumptuous and verdant environment within the mountain range is exceptional, as it has led to local and international tourists come to enjoy a serene and soothing environment from the fresh and calming easterly winds and grand view.
The Christmas Pass is a major tourist attraction in Zimbabwe that has attracted huge numbers of domestic and foreign tourists.
It is a strategic location to the sea ports of Beira and Maputo in Mozambique. As a result, it has seen increased volumes of traffic, mostly haulage trucks.
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Moreover, it is the gateway to the Forbes Border Post, connecting almost half of the Sadc region.
But, regardless of the magnificent and superb terrain, the Christmas Pass has sadly become a death trap.
The amazing winding road down the landscape has claimed so many lives as most drivers struggle to navigate the terrain.
The high accident rate at the site has forced the government to construct a 33km by-pass for haulage trucks.
From the Harare-Mutare Highway, just before the tollgate at Romeo’s marketplace, the road will turn right into a 33km stretch linking up with the Feruka Road in Mutare.
In an interview with NewsDay Weekender on the sidelines of a recent tour of the planned by-pass road in Odzi, Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Felix Mhona, said the project was meant to reduce the number of accidents at the Christmas Pass.
“The second republic under President Emerson Mnangagwa, having realised the need to save lives along the Christmas Pass road, has decided to construct a by-pass road. There is a need to speed up the process in order to safeguard other impending accidents.
“People were complaining that there were too many accidents happening in the Christmas Pass and surely, we have been witnessing accidents. As the second republic led by His Excellency, we really need to rehabilitate the by-pass road and divert heavy-duty trucks from using the Christmas Pass as a measure to reduce further accidents,” he said.
Mhona added that Cabinet has already approved the construction of the by-pass and feasibility studies have been done.
“Our engineers have done the mapping and other requirements and we hope that in the next two months the road construction will begin,” added Mhona.
Truck drivers interviewed welcomed the new development.
“Each time I drive through the Christmas Pass, I always pray to God to guide me. In all my driving life, this is one of the most dangerous areas. As a driver, I always thank God for passing through the road without any accidents.
“This stretch always brings sad memories to me, as l have lost two workmates in this area. I am happy that the government of Zimbabwe will be constructing a by-pass road, which l think will be more convenient and will save lives,” said Joseph Chembe (54) a Zambian truck driver who has passed through the terrain for the past 15 years.
A local truck driver Mathew Harawa (53) confirmed that a number of truck drivers perished at Christmas Pass.
“Sometimes to pass through this mountain is like a miracle. Many of our truck drivers have lost lives. Yes, accidents do happen, but, at the Christmas Pass, the accidents have become numerous. It is because of the terrain. We feel relieved that there will be a by-pass, which in my view will reduce the accidents. We hope that the relevant authorities will speed up the process,” he said.
This year alone, nine people lost their lives in the Christmas Pass,while several others were injured. Property worth thousands of dollars was also destroyed.
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) spokesperson Lucy Kuwandira said despite the steep terrain, there is no proper road signage at Christmas Pass.
“We have a number of road crushes at the Christmas Pass and as TSCZ we decided to carry out a road safety audit on the Christmas Pass stretch. We discovered that there were missing road signs and that other accidents were caused by unfamiliarity with the terrain. We recommend that there should be curve delimitation and road signs for drivers to observe.”