Two bus drivers died while 40 passengers were injured, some seriously, when a cross-border Mandaza bus rammed into the back of a stationery haulage truck in Beitbridge town on Saturday night.
Anthony Kapuya (60), who was on the wheel, died on admission at Beitbridge hospital while his co-driver, he had just relieved, died on the spot in a horror crash that occurred in the centre of town.
The name of the co-driver of the bus that was headed for South Africa has not been released. According to a witness, Patricia Ndlovu, the accident had been waiting to happen all day after the haulage truck broke down at a traffic light-controlled intersection about 400 metres from the Beitbridge Police Station.
The truck remained there the best part of the day until the accident.
"This truck had been there all day and posing the danger it eventually caused," said Ndlovu who assisted in carrying some of the injured to hospital. The bus that was coming from Harare at night then drove into the truck which had not been removed from the time it had developed a fault.
"The bus ploughed into the back, it was a horrible sight," she said.
Some of the more seriously injured passengers were immediately taken to Gwanda for onward transmission to larger hospitals in Bulawayo. Ndlovu said she saw only three policemen attending to the accident and they were overwhelmed by the crowd of about 300 people which came to the scene resulting in other reports of pilferage from injured passengers.
"Some passengers I spoke to said they lost their cash and property," said Ndlovu. The accident, which comes three days after another six people perished in another accident involving a haulage truck in Chipinge, also exposed the need for emergency services at Beitbridge, the busiest port of entry in sub-Saharan Africa.
At its peak, during the festive season, Beitbridge border post handles up to 10 000 people travelling between south Africa and Zimbabwe a day.
"The drivers were trapped for a long time and could have been saved if they had got help early enough," she said. Ordinary people broke the windows of the bus to remove trapped passengers. They used physical means to remove the trapped drivers who could have been removed easily if Jaws of Life (a recovery operation) were available.
Beitbridge Town secretary Loud Ramagkapola yesterday said his council needed a bigger Fire Tender and Emergency vehicle in the wake of such accidents occurring in the border town.
"We have budgeted for that but we need assistance from central government considering we are a transit town and our resources cater for many people and not only our ratepayers," he said in an interview.
Landlocked countries like Zambia, Malawi and Democratic Republic of the Congo that rely on South African seaports to move their goods by road, mostly through Beitbridge.
There was also need for dualisation of the road that led to the border post owing to increased traffic, he said.
Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi yesterday confirmed the accident and urged drivers of broken down vehicles to put adequate signage.
"We appeal to all drivers to be alert. Drivers whose vehicles have broken down on the road should put mechanisms to show the dangers on the road," said Nyathi. Police investigations were ongoing, he said.