END OF THE ROAD … The ill-fated Marsmerry bus headed for Zimbabwe claimed 13 lives, mostly women coming from shopping in neighbouring South Africa, when it overturned in a suspected case of negligent driving

By Rex Mphisa

THIRTEEN Zimbabweans, mostly women, died on the spot and another 13 were injured on Monday when a Beitbridge-bound Marsmerry bus they were travelling in overturned at the 21km peg near Louis Trichardt along the main N1 highway in South Africa.

Traffic between Musina and Louis Trichardt, the direct economic artery between the two towns, was blocked for more than seven hours as police and rescue teams tried to remove trapped bodies as well as survivors and clear the highway.

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The driver of the South Africa-registered bus, whose identity is yet to be established, survived the accident which occurred at a curved bridge on a gorge, a few kilometres from Ingwe Hotel.

Limpopo provincial transport executive committee member (MEC) Makoma Makhurupetje confirmed the accident.

“Makoma Makhurupetje, the MEC for Transport and Community Safety in Limpopo extends her heartfelt condolences to the families of 13 Zimbabwean nationals who died late yesterday afternoon when the bus they were travelling in lost control and overturned on the N1 north, near the Ingwe Hotel in Makhado. The MEC is also wishing a speedy recovery to 13 others who were injured during the crash,” her statement read.

“At this stage, no conclusive evidence has been found which points out to the exact cause of the accident although reckless driving is not ruled out as the possible cause.”

Added Makhurupetje: “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 almost the third time now that we are losing lives because of long-distance buses.”

A traffic policeman recording evidence at the scene confirmed 13 people, whose identities were yet to be established, had perished.

Luggage from the evidently-loaded bus was stacked by the roadside where the passengers’ passports and other paperwork were strewn.

“Several others have been ferried to different hospitals. Some have been taken to Elim. Others have been taken to the Memorial Hospital. Some were seriously injured because they were trapped under the bus. These will obviously be taken to bigger hospitals in Polokwane,” the policeman said.

“The driver must have lost control of the bus as he was coming down and it hit the railing barrier, flipping the bus over which then landed on its side.”

In an unrelated sad development, immigration officials cashed in on travellers who missed their deadline to exit South Africa after being blocked on the highway and arrived at the border post after midnight.

Travellers said they were being asked to pay R200 or risked being banned from travelling into South Africa for five years.