27 March 2014

Mozambique: Negligence and Speed Kill At Least Three Mozambicans Per Day

In many parts of Mozambique, there are increasing fears when leaving home in a personal car or a public transport minibus, commonly referred to as "chapas". According to weekly statistics from road authorities, traffic accidents take, per month, the lives of more than 100 hundred people. This means that, on average, there are 3.3 deaths per day on roadways in Mozambique.

In fact, deaths could be more than these numbers portray if we consider that there are claims that are not brought to the attention of the police. Children, youth, men, women, and the elderly suffer from consequences that influence their lives forever and, at worst, die due to lack of proper vehicle safety, increasing the danger that traffic casualties reflects on society.

A core study for the creation of the "National Movement Against Traffic Accidents STOP", references the attention public heath illnesses - such as malaria and cholera - receive, saying that traffic accidents could be remedied if public institutions and civil society seriously considered the threat that these accidents represent for everyone, especially victims.

On the mornings of March 17th and 25th, Albino Mugabe, Quintina Macamol, Manuel Macave, Eurico Getimane and Salomão Sitoe, took their belongings, said goodbye to their children and wives, and left for work.

Their trips ended tragically at the crossroads of Avenida de Moçambique and Rua Casimiro Mathe in the 25 de Junho neighborhood in Zimpeto, Maputo city, as a result of serious traffic accidents, which, according to the police, resulted from excessive speed and disrespect for basic traffic rules.

Road accidents do not kill only motorists, but also innocent people including passengers and pedestrians. In addition, they destroy goods whose acquisition has been very costly for the country. They destroy infrastructure whose replacement takes time.

On March 25, Manuel Macave, 37 years old, resident of Intaka, Matola Municipality, kissed his daughter goodbye with the promise of returning at the end of the day. This promise was broken. Around 05:30 he died on the main roadway EN1, in the area of Zimpeto, as a result of head-on collision between two minibuses with license plates AAC 419 MP and ABY 289 MP, the latter driven by Custodio Agostinho, only 19 years old. His route was between Maputo and neighboring town of Manhiça.

In this circumstance, the body of Manuel Macave was marred due to the severity of the crash and was identified at the Maputo Central Hospital (HCM) morgue by his brother Fernando Macave, who now lives with the dilemma of not knowing what to say to the child who constantly asks for her father. "There is a pressing need to do something serious to prevent road deaths. My niece doesn't want to believe that the father who gave her kisses that morning will never come back home. It's hard to accept this harsh reality," Fernando Macave fumed, albeit with tears streaming down his face.

42 year old André Chicongue resident of George Dimitrov neighborhood, faces the same difficulty since the death of his wife, Quintina Macamol from a car accident on March 17. He doesn't know how to console their 3 year old daughter who expresses the desire to see her mother. "It's sad to look at my daughter always calling for her mother who is dead. I don't know how I will solve this problem. She doesn't want to leave my side and she doesn't give me time to do other things and I don't have anyone to take care of the child at this difficult time".

Quintina Macamol was a young woman of 28 years and was devoted to local trade. On the day of her death, she was heading to Malanga market to buy fruit to resell at the Benfica market. André Chicongue had always gone to his wife's market stand to get some fruit for his workplace.

However, around 08: 30 that day he did not find his wife in her usual spot. When he called her phone, an unknown male voice answered. "The person told me simply that the owner of the cell phone was in a car accident and that I should contact the José Macamo General Hospital to get more information."

After arriving at the hospital, André was informed that his spouse was not part of the wounded nor the dead they had there and he should go to the HCM morgue. "I had difficulties recognizing my wife's body because of the severity of the accident. I identified her by her clothes. At the funeral we did not allow the coffin to be opened and people said goodbye to her without seeing her face", narrated André Chicongue. He believes that authorities should take bolder steps to curb the bloodshed on the roads.

In Mozambique, road accidents take lives daily, leaving dozens of people with severe injuries that make them unable to continue to assure the survival of their relatives. These accidents derive mainly from human error, namely excessive speed. Calls to respect driving standards are systematically ignored.

Article 30 of Decree-Law No. 1/2011, of 23 March, which approves the Highway Code, considers excessive speed as "when the driver cannot bring the vehicle to a stop in the visible free space in front of them, or exceeds speed limits fixed in terms of the law". Infringement of this article is punishable with a fine of 1,000 meticais (approximately $30).

Article 33 of the same norm establishes that, when it comes to a passenger vehicle circulating within a locality, the motorist must obey a maximum speed of 60 km/h. Yet, on both claims to which we refer, motorists exceeded this limit. For these situations, the fines can reach up to 8,000 meticais (approximately $266). However, the penalties have very obviously not curbed the bloodshed and grief on the roads or the pain of the families involved. The chaos we are witnessing on the public roadways and their subsequent tragedies culminates in bold obligations to find different and more ways of dealing with the problem.

Eight desperate orphans

Yet on March 17, at around 05:00, Delfina Albano, Armando Djendje, Alfonso Manjate and another citizen whose name was not released, perished in a car accident that killed seven people and injured at least 14, three of them seriously. The accident also involved two minibuses with license plates AAV 370 MC and ACF 849 MC, which circulated the routes Zona Verde/Baixa and Xipamanine/Mahlazine, respectively.

Albino Mugabe died at 62 years of age and leaves behind eight children and a widow. On that morning, Mugabe, who resided in Bagamoyo neighborhood, went to the parking lot near his residence. He tried to start the car, but he was not successful due to mechanical problems.

Faced with the difficulty of no transport, he decided to resort to taking the minibus but, unfortunately, he did not arrive to his destination. The sad news spread like wildfire.

"... we depended on our father"

Alfonso Manjate, 41 years old, lived in Muhalaze neighborhood, in Matola city. He departed from home that morning in his way to work but he did not return alive. He too left widow and eight children. Fernando Almeida, 56 years old, is related to the deceased and does not hide his dissatisfaction regarding alleged government apathy in respect of offenders of traffic regulations.

"There is a lack of accountability for those who kill people using cars in our country because of negligence. The police said we should bear the funeral expenses with our own funds but we have no money. Some people have borrowed money but they do not know how to reimburse it," said Fernando.

Salomão Sitóe, 56 years old, also did not escape the fatal accident.

In addition to his widow, seven children have been orphaned. "We all depended on our father for food, clothing and education. We don't know what our life will be from now on," said Filomena Sitóe, 24 years old, daughter of the deceased.

Survivors in agony

36 year old Lina Chamango, a resident of Ndlavela neighborhood in Matola city, has seen her health change dramatically for the worse since 17th March. She was hospitalized at José Macamo General Hospital and was discharged two days later. However, her condition worsened. In addition to chest swelling and severe pain, she can't digest food, which indicates that she should still be under close medical care.

"My wife is getting worse and I have no funds to defray the costs of medical treatment. The authorities did not declare the need for the owners of the vehicles that have caused this situation to take some responsibilities in regard to the injured. I contacted the criminal investigation police and received information that there is nothing concrete yet that forces the culprits to compensate for our injured relatives, "said Elias Pedro Massinga, Lina's husband.

"I woke up in the hospital"

Adolfo Macamo, 32 years old, resident of Muhalaze neighborhood, is hospitalized at HCM Orthopedics I, in bed 44. The victim narrated to Verdade that, on March 17th, he left home at 04:00. He got into a minibus owned by his neighbor identified by the name "Quisse", which ran the route of Zona Verde/Anjo Voador.

"The minibus was driven at an excessive speed and when we arrived in Choupal (intersection of Avenida de Moçambique and Rua Casimiro Mathe), a minibus that was coming in the opposite direction ran off the road, jumped the sidewalk and then collided violently with the side of the car I was in. I blacked out and when I woke up, I was in the hospital," said Adolfo Macamo. One of the minibus drivers remains injured in a severe state which means that it will be difficult to hold him accountable.

Charles José Carlos, 35 years old, is Maçamo's brother-in-law. He was also admitted to HCM as a result of the same accident. Both of them were traveling in the same vehicle. Charles was released two days after the accident, but he is still not healthy.

Adolfo Macamo's wife Filomena Fenias, 34 years old, is apprehensive about the future of her two family members. She prays day and night for the worst not to happen and for her husband to return to his familiar conviviality in conditions to continue activities that ensured the survival of his dependents.

Horácio Mondlane, 32 years old, took a minibus from Zimpeto terminal towards center city Maputo on the morning of March 25th. After passing the stop commonly referred to as coconut trees", in the vicinity of the Infulene Psychiatric Hospital, a minibus which was carrying passengers for the Manhiça/Maputo route left their driving lane to make a pass and crashed head-on with the minibus carrying Horacio. Our interlocutor only remembers that he heard screams and then he went unconscious. When he recovered his senses he was already hospitalized and receiving medical attention at the biggest hospital in the country, HCM.

I recognized his body in the morgue

Eurico Getimane, 24 years old, was the driver of the minibus carrying passengers on the route Zimpeto/Baixa (although his license allowed him to operate only on Praça dos Combatentes/Anjo Voador). Following the frontal impact between the two vehicles he and another passenger were trapped. Badly wounded, Eurico lost life at HCM, where he had been transported after being rescued by passersby and the Body of Public Safety (CSP). He leaves behind two young children.

At the crash site, Manuel Macave, 37 years old and resident of Intaka in Matola, also met his death. His brother, Fernando Macave, reported to us, still quite distressed, that upon receiving the news about the disaster he called Manuel's phone. The call was answered by a stranger who informed him that the owner of the phone had suffered a car accident.

Fernando went to José Macamo General Hospital but his loved one was not on the list of patients who had been admitted. Desperate and inconsolable, the citizen went to HCM, where he was transferred to the morgue: "I recognized my brother's body in the morgue of the Central Hospital of Maputo," he recounted.

There is no compensation for victims

There are many cases countrywide where people involved in traffic accidents are without assistance and the authorities seem ineffective in the punishment of those responsible for this situation. Mozambican attorney José Caldeira explains that the responsibility of compensation for moral, material or psychological damages, involuntary assault and death is attributed to the owner of the vehicle that causes the accident and the victims should be compensated according to the severity of the lesions.

It is still the duty of the owners of the cars that get involved in claims, if they are guilty, to follow the evolution of the health of the victims. However, in reality very few cases are treated in this way. In fact, when it comes to minibus drivers, the injured are left to their fate and their fate ends in misery, incapacitated and, at worst, without anyone to intercede for them in court to ensure the observance of their rights.

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