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“The accident stopped being a problem for Mutoko, it became an event for the district, province and nation. As the news moved across the globe, the accident became an international event.”

Mutoko, in the country’s Mashonaland East Province is generally a hot area.

Almost every morning, the sun bursts from the sky and mercilessly scorches the earth’s belly, a visitor to the area would think the end of the world has finally come.

With the rains falling and quenching the parched grounds, life becomes bearable for both humans and livestock.

The sequence is almost the same most of the times. But, on February 21, the weather was a bit different.

Dark clouds covered the sky. It was a sad day as it reminded many of a tragedy almost a month ago.

On January 18, an accident along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway claimed the lives of 27 people.

The accident occurred at a curve next to the turn-off leading to a clinic at the Pagejo raRubi Farm when two buses, a Zupco and Pioneer,s ide-swapped each other.

The accident was declared a national disaster.

Almost a month later, Mashonaland East Province remembered the lives of those who perished in the horrific accident.

Two memorial services were held, one at the accident site while a mass followed at All Souls Mission later that day.

The unusual weather did not deter those who had gathered.

All Souls Mission’s Father Tendai Mashayamombe conducted prayers at the accident scene.

The mass conducted by Fathers Gabriel Mberi and Mashayamombe proceeded without incident.

Those who lost loved ones were still in shock.

Some lost their wives, children, brothers and sisters.

There were also parents who waited for their children who never reached home, and husbands who lost their entire families.

Then there were fathers who sat next to their families on that bus, but survived the accident.

Men like Vengai Chinyama are broken.

On the fateful day, Chinyama accompanied his wife Nyaradzo Chihowa and their four children, Tafadzwa (12), twins Tanaka and Tashinga (7), and Tawananyasha (2), to Mbare for their journey to Chisambira in Mutoko.

For Chinyama, the journey started like any other.

They left their Dzivaresekwa home to Mbare where he left them comfortably sitting on the bus.

What followed was the devastating news that his wife and three children had perished in an accident.

Chinyama’s two-year-old son Tawananyasha survived the crash.

“It is very difficult to accept such a loss. I am still in pain. Although my uncle and his wife have been supportive, my life has been ruined,” he said.

Chinyama is unemployed and shares his rented room in Dzivaresekwa with his surviving son who is still recovering from a deep cut on his back.

“Life is difficult and at the moment I still have nightmares when I think of my wife and children who died in that accident.

“Besides the $200, coffins and transport I received from Government, nothing has been done to ease the predicament I am faced with for the rest of my life. I have not received any counselling,” he said.

John Mapona (34) escaped death by a whisker.

He was travelling with his wife Monica and daughter, Believe, when the accident occurred.

“I immediately fell asleep when we boarded the bus at Mbare Musika so when the accident happened I thought I was dreaming,” he said.

Mapona, a policeman, was unconscious when he was rescued from the wreckage before slipping into a coma that lasted seven days.

“I was admitted at West End Hospital. When I regained consciousness I was met with the shocking news that my wife and child had perished in the accident.

“It was difficult to accept such a loss because I had lost two of the most important people in my life.

“My relatives and friends have been supportive,” he said.

Mapona is still nursing a deep head injury while he awaits an operation on a dislocated shoulder.

Mrs Elizabeth Chipidigu lost her younger sister, Anna Tafirenyika (29), and seven-year-old niece Yvette Chikata.

“Anna was a domestic worker while her husband was a gardener. She had another child in Grade 3. I do not know how the child will endure life without her mother.

“It is also unfortunate that nothing has been done for the family since that accident,” Mrs Chipidigu said.

Mrs Eunice Marikiti also lost her daughter Beauty in the accident.

Beauty is survived by two children.

Mrs Marikiti said she cannot afford to pay school fees for the children.

“Beauty had separated from her husband and her death has created problems in the family. We cannot afford school fees and clothes for the children left behind,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the bereaved families during the mass, Mr Kudzanai Chabata, who was waiting for his daughter only to receive news of the accident, said the families need closure.

“We are still hurting but it is unfortunate the bus companies have not been forthcoming with information on how they would compensate us,” he said.

An emotional Chabata also blamed the bus drivers for the accident.

“That is a clear stretch of road and we do not expect an accident of such magnitude to happen. The drivers are responsible for this carnage,” he said.

However, Father Mashayamombe urged the nation to assist victims and loved ones left behind.

“We all received news of the accident through radios and television.

“The accident stopped being a problem for Mutoko, it became an event for the district, province and nation. As the news moved across the globe, the accident became an international event.

“We pray for the country’s leadership, we pray for the survivors. We pray for the souls of the departed. It is also in this vein that we hope the people that were affected by the accident will get the necessary support to heal from its effects,” he said.

Chief Chimonyo said Zimbabweans should work together in times of strife.

“The memorial service brings peace to our hearts after a period of mourning. It also teaches us that the departed are in a better place,” he said.

Mutoko East Member of Parliament Ricky Mubvumbi Mawere ,who organised both events said those who lost their relatives in the accident should be assisted.

“Families of the deceased are suffering. The corporate world and even the companies that own the two buses involved in the accident should assist the victims and their families,” he said.

The legislator called on companies to adopt some of the children whose parents died in the accident.

“We have two children Malivin Dzamara and Tawananyasha Chinyama who survived the accident but lost their mothers. We have big companies in Zimbabwe and these can take care of the children because their parents are struggling,” he said.

Meanwhile, as the successful mass ended and families, relatives and friends left the All Souls Mission grounds, the question remains on how survivors and deceased’s families cope with such unfortunate incidences.

Does the country have the necessary provisions to help accident victims?

How are survivors assisted to cope in case of an accident? Do we have the necessary institutions to assist families that are left behind after such a tragedy?

Currently, bus companies pay passenger insurance of US$5 per person and these passengers are expected to be compensated when an accident occurs.

When injured, compensation depends on the degree of injury and circumstances leading to the accident.

Source : The Herald