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Seven people were killed, while 40 were injured in separate accidents that occurred in Beitbridge and Guruve yesterday.
In Beitbridge, seven people died on the spot, and nine were injured when a truck they were travelling in overturned and rolled near Shabwe, Nuli, along the road to Chikwarakwara, while in Guruve, an overloaded truck’s side loading board flung open and sent passengers, who were headed for Heroes Day celebrations,flying onto the tarmac, resulting in 31 injuries.
Seriously injured passengers from the Beitbridge accident were ferried to Bulawayo, while the deceased were taken to Beitbridge District Hospital mortuary.
The driver of the two-tonne truck, believed to belong to Moses Tshibelegela who transports goods from the Limpopo River, reportedly bolted from the accidentscene.
The deceased are believed to have been coming from an unsuccessful trip to smuggle cigarettes into South Africa when the accident occurred at 2am.
Six of the deceased were identified as Gift Mundiya, Trymore Masuku, Cephas Chando, one Tafadzwa, Gilbert Mugabe and Peter Sithole.
The other deceased is believed to be the truck driver’s assistant.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the accident and said police were investigating the cause.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the driver was speeding when he lost control of the vehicle. It overturned three times, killing seven and injuringnine.
“We are also investigating the destination of the cigarettes,” Nyathi said, adding the truck was loaded with 18 boxes of cigarettes.
Samson Marumahara, who survived the crash, but sustained a fractured left leg, alleged the driver was speeding when he lost control of the vehicle.
“He was driving too fast. He refused to heed our appeals that he drives slowly. He usually drives fast and it was not the first time I have been in his car,”the survivor said.
“We were coming from an illegal crossing point near Dite after we developed cold feet taking a consignment of cigarettes across the border because we had seentoo many suspicious people we feared would rob us.”
He said they paid soldiers at Dite
R3 000 to be allowed to pass with cigarettes, only to find the illegal crossing point teeming with known criminals.
“Prior to that, we had paid some police officers at Tshinwanyane R500 protection fee. We lost all that money and seven lives, including the cigarettes. Thesoldiers had actually asked for R10 000.”
A sombre mood hung over Beitbridge Hospital, where dozens of relatives of the deceased were trying to identify the dead and hear first-hand news fromsurvivors.
The relatives also paid $600 for fuel for the ambulance to carry their badly injured loved ones to referral hospitals.
Linda Kapfurutsa, who had come to see an injured neighbour, said: “We are not happy with the pace the injured are being handled. They should have been transferred a long time ago to other hospitals.”
At the mortuary, relatives wailed as police off-loaded bodies of the deceased into the mortuary, while relatives helped identify the mostly young men who eke out a living from being porters of smuggled goods.
“There is no employment. This is the gravity of the mess we are in. Young men risk their lives in these treacherous jobs, where it’s only survival of thefittest,” said Winnie Kennias, whose brother-in-law was among the dead.
Most of the deceased left behind young families.
In Guruve, the 31 injured victims were ferried to Guruve Rural Hospital.
Sources at the accident scene told NewsDay that the truck’s side boards opened at a curve near Guruve.
“The overloaded truck was coming from Bakasa and when approaching a curve at the 7km peg at Ona Mapeto bus stop, the truck’s boards opened and passengers were flung onto the road,” the source said.
Mashonaland Central police spokesperson Inspector Milton Mundembe could not be reached for comment.
Guruve district war veterans chairperson Bernard Mondo expressed sadness over the accident.
“We are very saddened by the accident, though no fatalities were recorded, but it made many people to go back home in fear of losing lives,” he said.