SIXTEEN commuters escaped death by a whisker when a kombi they were travelling in overturned after its tyres were deflated by spikes thrown onto its path by police manning a roadblock at the Khami flyover bridge in Kelvin yesterday morning.
Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo confirmed the accident and blamed the driver for negligence.
“The driver was under age and was speeding. The passengers complained about his speeding and even asked him to stop for them to disembark, but he did not heed to their pleas,” said Moyo.
He said the driver was aged 23 and the legal driving age for public passenger vehicles is 25.
He said the driver’s employer would be arrested.
He also confirmed that a cop was beaten up by an angry mob, but said he was from another police station and not part of the roadblock crew.
Angry eye witnesses said the police threw spikes in front of the moving kombi leading to the accident.
“After the kombi overturned, the police officers fled from the roadblock, but one of them was caught and beaten up by members of the public for endangering the lives of people just for a fine,” said an eye witness.
“It shows that these cops are not properly trained because they seem to equate human lives to money.
“The people in that kombi were just innocent residents going to work and for them to have a brush with death because of overzealous police officers is shocking. Whatever offence the kombi driver had committed does not justify the police reaction. People were injured and police won’t take the blame as usual.
“What were they going to do if all passengers had died? These police officers are criminals and should be charged with multiple attempted murders because it’s foolish to endanger the lives of 16 innocent people for a silly fine,” the eye witness said.
The Bulawayo Fire Brigade confirmed that they attended to the accident scene and rescued the injured passengers whom they put into ambulances and rushed to Mpilo Hospital.
Fire Brigade senior divisional officer Linos Phiri told Southern Eye that they were shocked by the police’s role in the accident which could have unnecessarily caused loss of lives.
“A lot of people were injured, but we managed to rescue them. However, what the police did endangers the lives of the public,” he said.
“There was no need to use those spikes because the kombi has number plates. They should have just jotted down the numbers of the vehicle and made a follow-up later than put people’s lives in danger.”
When Southern Eye visited Mpilo Hospital, it found four passengers still detained in a serious condition with head and facial injuries. The other 12, including the kombi driver, were just treated for bruises and discharged.
One of the kombi passengers Nyasha Goronga, who had just been released after treatment, told Southern Eye that she had boarded the kombi next to the Entumbane complex and the driver turned towards Khami Road to avoid a police roadblock near Emachipsini.
“I boarded the kombi at Entumbane complex and it suddenly changed its route and headed towards Khami Road to avoid the police roadblock,” said Goronga.
“When the kombi approached the flyover bridge, the driver increased speed to pass before police manning a roadblock on the other side of the dual carriageway could stop him.
“All police officers were on the lane of traffic coming from the city, but an officer suddenly jumped to our lane and threw spikes in front of the kombi which was speeding and it overturned. When we were rescued from the kombi, the police were nowhere to be found,” Goronga said.
Another victim of the accident Silia Kopiteni said she remembered that the kombi overturned after the wheels hit the spikes.
“The kombi overturned three times before stopping at the edge of the bridge. If it had rolled again, it would have fallen off the flyover bridge and we were going to die. The police put our lives at risk by throwing spikes in front of the kombi when they could see that there were passengers on board,” Kopiteni said.