Home South African Bleak Easter for families after fatal bus crash

Bleak Easter for families after fatal bus crash

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Authorities from South Africa and Botswana have been working around the clock to identify the bodies of Thursday’s bus crash victims who died on their way to Limpopo for an Easter pilgrimage.

A forensic pathologist combs through the burnt remains of the bus that was taking Easter pilgrims from Botswana to Moria, following its crash near Mamatlakala in Limpopo. Picture: Reuters

By Wendy Jasson Da Costa

DURBAN – Authorities from South Africa and Botswana have been working around the clock to identify the bodies of Thursday’s bus crash victims who died on their way to Limpopo for an Easter pilgrimage.

Forty-five people, all of them from Botswana, died when their bus plunged from a bridge into the mountainside between Mokopane and Marken in Limpopo and then burst into flames.

The sole survivor was an eight-year-old girl who is recovering in hospital. Botswana’s transport ministry’s media officer, Vongani Chauke, said family members were “coming to the country (South Africa) to visit the surviving girl”.

“She’s fine, receiving medical attention and does not have serious injuries,” he said.

Emergency services and rescue workers attend to the site of a bus crash in the Mmamatlakala mountain pass in Limpopo. Picture: EPA-EFE

According to the police, by late Saturday 34 bodies had been found but only nine were identifiable, with many burnt beyond recognition. They confirmed that 15 men and 31 women on board were citizens of Botswana who were travelling from Molepolole village, 60 kilometres north-west of the capital, Gaborone. Police said they were investigating a case of culpable homicide. The driver also died in the accident.

The Transport Ministry said in a statement: “It is alleged that the driver lost control, colliding with barriers on the bridge, causing the bus to go over the bridge and hitting the ground, where it caught fire.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to Botswana and the families of the deceased. In a call to Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Ramaphosa pledged the continued support of the South African government during this time of need.

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga also extended her condolences to the affected families and urged motorists to drive responsibly and with heightened alertness “as more people are on our roads this Easter weekend”.

The chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport, Mina Lesoma, said she was saddened by the accident.

“This is a bleak Easter not only for religious South Africans but the entire region,” said Lesoma.

Every Easter at least a million members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) go on a pilgrimage to Moria outside Polokwane in Limpopo but the event was stopped over the past few years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apparently, this was to be the first pilgrimage since 2020.

A Botswana news website, Mmegi Online, reported that the country’s Minister of Defence and Security, Kagiso Mmusi, promised that the bodies of all those who died would be repatriated for burial.

Emergency services and rescue workers attend to the site of a bus crash in the Mmamatlakala mountain pass in Limpopo. Picture: Facebook
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