RESIDENTS of Jama resettlement area, about 62km from Bulawayo along the Gweru Road have blamed the horrific accident involving a Pathfinder luxury bus and haulage truck that left six people dead on Saturday night on the vandalising of the highway fence by resettled people at the height of the fast-track land reform programme.
While they used the fence to secure their homesteads, the vandalism left the highway as a death trap as livestock freely stray onto the road risking the lives of thousands of passengers who use the road on a daily basis.
The Bulawayo-bound Pathfinder bus reportedly hit a cow that had strayed onto the road at around 7pm and the driver lost control resulting in a head-on collision with the truck carrying coal.
Both drivers of the bus and the haulage truck died on the spot. Dozens of passengers were injured and ferried to Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo which struggled to cope with the casualties.
The concerned Jama residents urged the government to urgently fence the highway off as more lives were likely to be unnecessarily lost, especially during the festive season, as the road had now become a major death trap with livestock freely wandering onto the road at night.
The highway around the same area claimed the life of National Railways of Zimbabwe boss retired air commodore Mike Karakadzai, whose vehicle also hit a cow before colliding with a truck.
Some residents who spoke to Southern Eye on condition of anonymity said people in the area stole the highway and paddock wire to fulfil their selfish needs and said security would be needed during the refencing of the road.
“There are some people here who stole the wire to fence their fields and now we are suffering because we cannot even control our livestock,” one villager said.
Major Thwala, a Jama village elder said there was need to fence the area to avoid accidents caused by livestock.
“If things go well, we should fence our paddocks so that our livestock does not stray onto the road and affect motorists. It is painful because we have seen about nine accidents around the same spot this year, and most of them involving cattle,” Thwala said.
“I cannot provide the exact number of people who have died in those accidents, but they are many because most vehicles involved are public transport. This area has turned into a black spot. In the meantime, we would also like to urge drivers to avoid speeding until we fence our paddocks,” Thwala said.
Another resident, Kathrine Mlotshwa, said people in the area needed to be educated about the importance of fencing paddocks as most of them were ignorant.
“People should be told the importance of fencing because most people here do not realise its significance. Many accidents have occurred in this area in a similar fashion, but people are still unconcerned when we talk about the need to fence our paddocks. After all, fencing is good for the lives of the people and livestock,” Mlotshwa said.
Motorists last month called on Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Obert Mpofu to secure the country’s major roads by erecting a fence to prevent fatal accidents involving animals before entertaining thoughts of urban tolling.
Mpofu said the government had considered the issue of fencing off the country’s major roads in its infrastructural rehabilitation project but failed to indicate when the project would kick start.
Vehicle-animal collision is prevalent in the Matabeleland region along the Beitbridge and Masvingo Highway as well as the Shangani area along the Bulawayo-Gweru Road where there are a lot of stray donkeys and cattle.