On Tuesday, five people were killed and dozens more were injured when a Munenzwa bus from Zimbabwe overturned on a highway near the South African capital of Pretoria.
A survivor Jeremiah Mupfapaire blamed the accident on the driver whom he said was driving too fast. In separate interviews last week, transport operators blamed many factors, including the quality of vehicle spares, operating conditions, poor roads and police corruption for the carnage.
“Some tyres and vehicle spares are of poor quality,” said Commuter Omnibus Operators Association (COOA) president Tererai Katema. “Noone is controlling the quality of spares being imported into the country that is why you find clothes shops being able to sell tyres.
“Just like everything nowadays, we have imitations and substandard spares being used on vehicles and these are popular because of their cheap price.” Some transporters said because of economic hardships, many operators found it “economic” to buy a new kombi tyre for US$120 and below.
A good second hand tyre costs between US$50 and US$60 at a Chinese or Nigerian shop compared to a genuine import which costs US$180 and above. Cosmas Mukoyi, the acting Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) director conceded that some spare parts being imported by reputable garages were fake.
He admitted that the fake parts were contributing to road accidents. “SAZ is lobbying for regulations to ensure that imported products are checked to ensure that they are of the right quality,” Mukoyi said.
“The association also encourages importers to have imported products checked to ensure that that they are of the right quality.” But most transporters believe corruption in the police force is to blame for the road accidents as unqualified drivers were now allowed to operate public transport.
Owners of unfit vehicles can also pay to use the country’s roads with ease, transporters said. “We find it difficult to encourage our members to be compliant because even those with all papers in order suffer the same way as those without as some police officers are pre-occupied with demanding bribes and not checking compliance,” Katema said.
Innocent Katuruza, whose company owns a fleet of commuter omnibuses plying various routes from Harare, said public transport crews also operated under a lot of pressure hence the accidents.
POLICE BLAME RECKLESS, CORRUPT DRIVERS
However, police spokesperson Oliver Mandipaka blamed the accidents on reckless driving. “Let us desist from the blame game because the police do not seat behind people’s steering wheels and cause accidents,” Mandipaka said.
“People are just not careful, impatient and irresponsible yet driving is a science and an art which requires diligence. “We need discipline starting from an individual motorist who will make sure their vehicle is in a sound mechanical condition before leaving their home.
“A motorist who will respect the rules and not overtake where there is a white continuous line, at an intersection or in front of an oncoming vehicle, one who will not shoot through a red robot, will not stop at undesignated points and will drive at 60 km on a 60km zone and not at 140km.”
Mandipaka said many motorists flouted the Highway Code and become violent when advised by fellow drivers. “Concerning corrupt officers, many offenders have been prosecuted and that is known,” he said.
“But again, elimination of corruption also should start with the society whereby individuals refuse to pay whatever money they are asked for and we can see if any officer will pull a gun on them.”