14 die in another Zimbabwe bus crash

AP News
Posted: Aug 03, 2011 9:46 AM
14 die in another Zimbabwe bus crash

At least 14 people were killed after a minibus crashed in Zimbabwe, the second deadly accident involving an overcrowded bus in the southern African country in recent days, state radio reported Wednesday.

Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka said the minibus carried nine more passengers than its licensed capacity. State radio said the bus burst a rear tire on Tuesday and overturned twice about 120 miles (195 kilometers) east of the capital, Harare.

Tuesday's crash brings to 33 the number of passengers killed in bus wrecks in the country in three days.

On Saturday, 19 people died when a rear wheel of their 16-seater bus broke off. Police reported 29 people had crammed into that vehicle.

Most of the dead were members of a religious group from the same Harare suburb of Hatcliffe. They were headed for a church meeting, survivors said. Several of those killed had also lived on the same street and two neighboring families mourned the loss of 10 relatives in the same crash Saturday.

Bus accidents are common in Zimbabwe, blamed mostly on poor maintenance in the troubled economy, worn tires, speeding and overcrowding. Some 200 people died in bus crashes last year, according to the official road traffic safety board.

Economic reforms under the nation's shaky coalition led to eased import taxes on the minibus, known locally as the kombi.

Chaotic private kombi services have clogged roadsides, streets and parking lots across the country since the collapse of the country's main 80-seater public bus services. Drivers and abusive passenger marshals, or touts, wage turf wars to garner business.

Drivers are often poorly qualified and bribes of $150 can obtain a driver's license.

Minibuses routinely pack two or three people beside the driver, six over three seats and more crouched in the entrance, aisle and luggage area.

Transport Minister Nicholas Goche warned bus operators this week he won't hesitate to cancel their permits if safety rules are still flouted.

Zimbabwe heads toward a two-day national holiday next week when traffic accidents peak. The Easter break earlier this year cost a record 78 lives on roads and highways.