THIRTEEN Zimbabweans, including four children, died and 36 others were injured when a Marsmery bus they were travelling in overturned just outside Makhado town in South Africa’s Limpopo province.
The accident occurred on Monday at about 5PM along the N1 highway which is one of the major roads which links South Africa and the rest of the Southern Africa Development Community.
It was not immediately clear where the Zimbabweans were headed to or were travelling from but Marsmery is a Zimbabwean bus company.
Emergency services ER24 spokesperson Mr Russel Meiring confirmed the accident to the South African media.
“ER24 paramedics, along with several other services, arrived on the scene to find the bus lying on its roof off the roadway. Numerous patients were found lying around the scene,” he said.
Mr Meiring said 36 people were treated on the scene and their injuries ranged from minor to critical.
He said several people died on the scene and others succumbed to their injuries at nearby hospitals. Once treated, other patients were transported to nearby hospitals for further care.
Limpopo Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) responsible for Transport and Community Safety Makoma Makhurupetje said the exact cause of the accident is not yet known but reckless driving could be a possible cause.
“I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of 13 Zimbabwean nationals who died late yesterday afternoon when the driver of the bus they were travelling in lost control and overturned on the N1 north, near the Ingwe Hotel in Makhado. I also wish a speedy recovery to others who were injured during the crash,” she said.
“We are deeply concerned about accidents involving buses as they lead to more loss of lives compared to ordinary motor vehicles.”
“The driver and vehicle fitness of long distance cross border buses is also a matter of deep concern to us as this is the third time now that we are losing lives because of long distance buses.”
Ms Makhurupetje said it was high time law enforcement officers stepped up their routine checks on long distance buses to avoid similar accidents.
Limpopo Department of Transport spokesperson Mrs Matome Moremi-Taueatsoala said they will be working with the Zimbabwean authorities to identify and repatriate the bodies.
“The Road Accident Fund (RAF) and the Department of Health will henceforth be working with the Zimbabwe Consulate to deal with the issue of identification of bodies.
“In addition, RAF will handle the repatriation cost,” she said.
The N1 highway has become a death trap as many Zimbabweans are losing their lives on that road.
The latest accident comes a few months after nine Zimbabweans were killed in a road accident in Polokwane when a bus they were travelling in overturned.