The death toll in the road accident involving Smart Express and Bolt Cutter buses, which side-swiped each other on Wednesday evening, has risen to 50.
Police Officer Commanding Rusape District Superintendent Isaac Gowe said 45 people died on the spot, while five others died yesterday morning at Rusape General Hospital.
The accident occurred at the 156km peg along the Harare-Mutare Highway.
Following the accident, Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Joel Biggie Matiza yesterday read the riot act to public service vehicle operators, accusing them of recklessness.
Matiza, who was accompanied by Manicaland provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba and provincial administrator Edgar Seenza, among other several government officials, toured the accident scene before visiting close to 80 survivors at Rusape General Hospital.
“We are going to take strong measures against reckless drivers. There are some drivers with fake licences and the government, through the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID), we are putting systems to stop that,” he said.
“Owners of buses should make sure that their buses are fit to go on the roads. Make sure that you have correct drivers on the roads. We have asked the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe to foot the bills for the injured.”
Gwaradzimba said there was need to introduce speed limits targeting bus drivers.
“Bus drivers should be limited on their speed. I was at the scene where the accident happened at Torish Farm. It’s a black spot and the government should be able to put signs to show that it is a black spot. I am pleading to you, the Minister of Transport, to assist,” she said.
“Our statistics indicate that at the moment 50 people were killed, while 80 were injured. From that number, two were discharged while three are critical and have been taken to Harare for special treatment.”
Gwaradzimba said President Emmerson Mnangagwa had donated $500 to each bereaved family and that the Insurance Council of Zimbabwe would help foot the medical bills for the injured passengers.
She revealed that Rusape mortuary was overwhelmed with bodies and Nyaradzo Funeral Services had come to the rescue.
Gwaradzimba said each bereaved family would get $1 350.
Local Government minister July Moyo yesterday said he had requested Mnangagwa to declare the accident a state of disaster and ordered the Civil Protection Unit to assist bereaved families.
“I have ordered the civil protection structures at Rusape and Manicaland province to swiftly and compassionately attend to the affected,” he said.
Meanwhile, national police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said preliminary investigations showed that the driver of the Smart Express bus, who was coming from Mutare, overtook a haulage truck and a Toyota Wish vehicle in a prohibited zone.
She said in the middle of overtaking, the driver saw an oncoming bus and tried to return to his lane, but failed.
“In a bid to avoid a head-on collision, he swerved off the road to the extreme right, hit the Bolt Cutter bus on the left side. Both buses sustained extensive damage, which resulted in the killing and injuring of passengers,” Charamba said, adding the police would close in on all vehicle operators, drivers and roads users who put profit and speed above human life.