29 December 2018

Zimbabwe: Crash Survivor's Sad Christmas Tale

The mere mention of the word Christmas is sure to evoke nightmarish memories for 52-year-old wheelchair-bound widow, Mrs Marita Muswa of Hwedza.

For her neighbours, the day in particular and the period in general means merrymaking and an array of festivities, but it's not the case for her, as this is the time her life turned upside down, two years ago.

In the same period last year, she had coarse salt rubbed onto her ever-bleeding wound.

Exactly two years ago, Mrs Muswa along with her carpenter husband Sylvester embarked on a short trip to Rusape where they intended to buy Christmas clothing for their only granddaughter Tambu, then seven years old, born to their only daughter Tendai, who till death refused to open up on who her child's father was.

The couple had dug from its tobacco farming enterprise savings from the previous season just to have their granddaughter look nice on the biggest day on the Christian calendar.

But, as fate would have it, the speeding driver of the commuter omnibus the couple was travelling on, lost control of the vehicle at the 50km peg along the Goto-Rusape Road resulting in it swerving off the road and hitting a tree on the roadside.

Two people perished, including Sylvester, while his wife, suffered a back and an acute ankle injury.

She subsequently had her right leg amputated from the knee due to the severity of the injury, while she suffered a mild stroke, which affected her spine.

"It was hard to take. Hard to grasp. Hard to comprehend. Sometimes l would think that I was still having a scary dream, especially after l got out of hospital," she said.

"My husband gone, the head of the family no more, my health gone and all hope for a better future in flames," she lamented.

But, unbeknown to her, the worst was to come a year later around the same period.

After losing her husband to the road crash, which also left her wheelchair-bound, naturally she had to look up to her daughter, whose child Sylvester and herself intended to clothe when tragedy struck.

Tendai, though viewed as someone of loose morals after failing to at least come in the open on her child's father, proved to be well-groomed and cultured as she took it upon herself to take every care for her mother.

She would go for piece jobs to provide for the family.

But mid-last year, Tendai got a boyfriend, who promised to marry her.

At first Tendai refused, according to Mrs Muswa as she wouldn't leave her mother alone. But the suitor promised to let his wife-to-be come with her mother.

Ironically, on Christmas Eve last year, with all relatives awaiting, Tendai's husband-to-be died in an accident when he was on his way to pay the bride price in Hwedza.

Tendai, who was among those waiting for the ceremony in Hwedza had to be restrained by village elders as she wanted to take her own life after news filtered in that her boyfriend had died in an accident.

"Probably my husband's death was not as painful as that of my would-be son-in-law.

"I hadn't seen my daughter as happy as she was on the day her would-be-husband was coming to pay lobola," Mrs Muswa said.

"All relatives were here. We had even slaughtered a beast for the visitors (Tendai's husband-to-be and his relatives).

"Tendai was communicating with him when they were on their way. But, somehow the husband ominously could not pick his phone. Others thought he was playing games with us.

"When Tendai gave the phone to my sister, who had joined us on that particular day, she was greeted by a policeman, who broke the sad news.

"It was like Hell had visited us," she grieved.

Tendai never recovered from that loss and succumbed to heart failure in August this year.

Mrs Muswa now lives with her granddaughter (Tambu) who at only nine, takes care of everything that her grandmother needs.

Sometimes other villagers come to help when Tambu is at school.

Too bad all her misfortunes started around Christmas time.

She said this is the period of the year that she hates the most.

"I know the period we are in is supposed to be characterised by merrymaking, but to me it brings a lot of sad memories.

"This is the time that l got crippled and lost my husband. It is also the same period that I lost a potential son-in-law. I don't know, but l also suspect my daughter's illness started when she lost her would-be-husband in that accident.

"So, basically this is the period l don't like," she reflected.

As the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) launched the festive season road safety campaign last weekend, the organisation has called for drivers to practice due care on the roads.

An average of 2 000 people perish on the roads every year since 1980, according to the TSCZ.

Of that figure, about 15 percent lose their lives during the festive period.

While drivers often play the blame game on their vehicles and state of the road, the TSCZ managing director Mr Obio Chinyere said over 95 percent of road crashes are as a result of human error.

"Human error is the main cause of road accidents. We continue to lose a lot of lives on the roads due to driver error," he said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the road safety campaign launch, TSCZ spokesperson Mr Tatenda Chinoda said drivers should not get too excited to save lives.

The country loses over $406 million to road accidents every year.

Said Mr Chinoda: "Drivers shouldn't drink and drive. They should adhere to speed limits and excise caution to save life and serve the country.

"The country wants to achieve the upper middle income earning status by 2030 and there is no way this can be achieved if we continue losing such huge sums of money to road accidents."

This year alone, over 1 708 people have lost their lives on the roads.

About 97,78 percent of those recorded crashes were as a result of human error, such as misjudgement.

Ms Muswa's advice to drivers during this period is simple, "Slow down, stay alert, and remember not to get too excited on the wheel. Of course, never bend the cardinal rule... don't drink and drive."

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