21 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Driving in the 'Valley' of Death

"The Black Spot," a high accident zone just after Trek Service station (commonly referred to as PaChinhamo), along Seke Road is gaining notoriety by the day.

As kombis speed past the horror spot, passengers gesture and discuss the loss of lives occasioned by ill-calculated attempts to negotiate the double curve.Last month, 10 people died on the spot and six others were seriously injured when a Chitungwiza-bound commuter omnibus veered off the road and rammed a tree around the area.

While condolences were still abuzz, a car "flew" off the road and hit a tree when the driver took his hands off the wheel to point at the spot.

These are just a few of a long line of tragedies that have occurred here and mystery surrounds the cause or causes of the fatalities.

Theories are being woven by the day.

Is it about engineering, as relating to the construction of the road; or is it about the supernatural?

Christians are mobilising prayer campaigns, while traditionalists suggest "kubika doro" (cleansing rites).

John Gavaza (42) who stays close to the horror patch told The Herald that more accidents occur at the spot than are reported in the media.

He approximated the accidents at five every month and said he and his family have helped many accident victims, especially during the night, as people, often night-riders speeding home to Chitungwiza from pleasure joints in Harare, fail to negotiate the curve.

"We hear the sound of crashing and overturning cars at night and rush to help," Gavaza said.

"In most cases, you do not get to hear the reason behind the accident because the driver would be drunk. Only two months ago, a drunken driver in the company of prostitutes lost control and everyone in the car was severely injured.

"The drivers do not help each other because they suspect that they are being set up for robbery, so we end up helping by ourselves most of the times. Sometimes an ambulance would be passing and when we request help they say they are from Chitungwiza not Harare and it takes time to contact an ambulance and get it on spot in time," Gavaza said.

He said some drivers claim that they see ghost-like apparitions before the crash but no one has ever been able to authenticate the claims.

Saviours Makanga (50) who stays close to the army barracks said the place has become a constant cause of fear for residents.

"This place has become a scare! Since the horror collision which involved Broken Arrow, Blue Seal, Anesu and several other buses in 2003, there has been a series of fatal and near-fatal accidents," Makanga said.

"Some people link it to spiritual phenomena. There has been talk about a man in black confusing drivers shortly before accidents occur. We also hear that there is a mermaid at the dam down there. I am not sure as to the authenticity of the claims but I think something must be urgently done to avert the fatalities," he said.

Christopher Majoni, who occasionally gets his car serviced at the Trek Service Station, said the accidents have more to do with subversion of traffic safety observations.

"I do not agree with these superstitious interpretations. They might actually be causing people to have a whatever-will-be-will-be attitude instead of playing their part to ensure road safety.

"There is a double curve on a busy road just before a bridge and that in itself is an engineering flaw. Drivers do not slow down around that corner and that is what causes some drivers to lose control and veer off-course. People should observe the traffic regulations as that will significantly minimise accidents.

"Besides, there are simply too many roadblocks. Kombis are intercepted too many times and when they try to recover their target they do so by speeding. That is when accidents occur," he said.

Margaret Chikaka (57) said some serious spiritual troubleshooting will do for the area.

"There must be consistent prayers to cleanse the area. People must converge from their different belief systems to stop the deaths. However, those who want to go the ancestral way must do it with knowledge otherwise the problem will be worse.

"I used to consult spirits before I became a Christian and I know that problems are worsened when rituals are done the wrong way by people tagging themselves into what they do not know.

"It is the same nekurova guva rasekuru vamusingazivi (conjuring up the spirit of a dead relative whom you do not know.) If the ancestor you are welcoming back was a failure, you are simply perpetuating poverty in the family.

"I do not think we should play down the efforts of those who have been praying over the area. Their efforts will eventually yield the expected end. Yes, we hear there was an accident a day after prayers but that does not mean their prayers were shunned.

"The other reason is that kombi drivers have become unruly. Sometimes we complain about the speed and the driver shouts back that we are not the ones who taught him to drive.

"Instead of helping restrain the driver, sometimes you hear other passengers shouting 'bhora mberi, team yakabaiwa' (speed on, we have business to attend to)."

Tererai Zungura, a campus fellowship leader, said Christians should continue praying and expect God to reply His own way because He is sovereign.

"The spot is also a blind spot, drivers must be vigilant and sober as they pass through the area because there could be no spiritual cause but just negligence," he said.

Michael Mutena, an intercessor with ZAOGA (FIF), said the best solution is to address the root of the fatalities.

"Bloodshed, under any circumstances, is the work of the devil. We must pray against all wicked devices."

"Then there is the critical need to hold morals with high esteem; recklessness, drunken driving, drug abuse, the issue of unqualified drivers and extortion must be done away," Mutena said.

A Chitungwiza man last Wednesday added a mystical turn to the plot when he felled the Munhondo tree which was rammed by the kombi last month.

Simon Gonese said he felled the tree in keeping with tradition to rid the place of bad spirits and fend off further disaster.

"According to our tradition when one commits suicide by hanging from a tree and we cut down the tree as a way of cleansing the place," Gonese said. Before the tree was cut down, there were indications that some people were barking it to use the bark for witchcraft purposes.

An apostolic intercessors' guild recently hung white banners with the red print: "High Accident Zone, crushing on the devil's head" after praying over the area.

It remains to be seen whether these prayers will be answered just yet.

Many fear the Devil may still be out to crush a few more heads here.

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