The Herald (Harare)

20 June 2012

Zimbabwe: 13 Perish in Mbembesi Crash

Thirteen people died on the spot while four others were injured when a kombi they were travelling in plunged into a dry riverbed along the Mbembesi-Fort Rixon road on Monday night.

According to police, the Toyota Hiace, carrying 17 passengers, plunged into a seven-metre-deep dry riverbed after the driver failed to negotiate a narrow bridge.

The accident, which occurred around 8.30pm, has been attributed to overloading and speeding.

Among the deceased was a one-year-old baby. The injured are still admitted at United Bulawayo Hospitals.

Police have since put adequate measures to ensure that all public service vehicles comply with the Road Traffic Act and Road Motor Transportation Act following an increase in road accidents involving kombis.

Traffic cops will be heavily deployed on all the country's major roads until there is sanity.

Officer Commanding Traffic Senior Assistant Commissioner Martin Chari yesterday said accidents involving kombis were increasing at an alarming rate.

He said people were dying and others got injured in these accidents besides the inevitable loss of property.

"It appears the passenger-carrying service providers have sacrificed the value of life and treated it as a commodity for quick monetary returns.

"Recklessness, speeding and total disregard for vehicle worthiness and overloading continue to be characteristics of the kombis that we find on our roads. Equally, passengers are determined to get to their destinations despite observing the obvious and visible disregard for their safety," Snr Asst Comm Chari said.

The force, he said, will carry out operations targeting passenger vehicles to check overloading and vehicle roadworthiness, speed traps, checking on drivers' competency and sobriety.

Breathalysers have since been bought for this purpose.

Snr Asst Comm Chari said during these operations, passengers were likely to experience delays at police checkpoints.

He advised passengers to ensure that they do not board overloaded and unroadworthy kombis.

"Drivers without the requisite documentation may not be allowed to proceed with the vehicle. Where the driver is driving under the influence of alcohol, such a driver will be detained.

"Passengers' journeys may be unduly affected. As passengers we need to start making the right choice of travel," Snr Asst Comm Chari said.

He urged passengers to report any bad driving at any nearest police station or Harare police hotline number (04) 703631.

Snr Asst Comm Chari said: "At the same time we urge the public to report any corrupt activities between police officers and public service providers on the given hotline number. In any event the ZRP does not tolerate corruption within its ranks."

On March 25, 13 people were killed while 11 others injured when a commuter omnibus burst its front right tyre near the 51km peg along the Harare-Bindura road.

The kombi, which was permitted to carry 15 passengers, had 23 on board and the accident was attributed to overloading and speeding.

The following day, 16 members of the Johanne Masowe sect died while 27 others were injured when a Toyota Rosa minibus they were travelling in veered off the road and rammed onto a stone along the Nyanga-Nyamaropa road.

Six people died and 14 others injured when a kombi they were travelling in veered off the road and overturned twice near the 60km peg along the Wedza-Chitungwiza road on June 17.

The kombi burst its left rear tyre resulting with the driver losing control of the vehicle and it veered off the road before overturning.

"From this sample of cases, it is apparent that we are continuing to lose life unnecessarily.

"All the accidents could have been avoided had the drivers not overloaded and limited themselves to the speed limit of 80km/h," Snr Asst Comm Chari said.

He said police will not be idle while unnecessary loss of life continues.

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