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Death Toll Reaches 33 In Zimbabwe's Commuter Bus Crashes

Creditors are refusing to fund expansion of the country’s highway network in a project running from Botswana through Zimbabwe to Mozambique as investors have doubts about Harare's creditworthiness

The death toll from two commuter bus crashes on Zimbabwean highways in recent days has risen to 33, sparking debate on the dangerous condition of the country's roads, in particular the roadway from Harare to Beitbridge on the South African border.

Meanwhile creditors are refusing to fund the expansion of the country’s highway network in a project connecting major routes from Botswana through Zimbabwe to Mozambique as the country's creditworthiness remains a cause for concern to investors.

Nineteen people succumbed to injuries sustained when a commuter omnibus traveling at a high speed on the Harare-Concession road lost a rear wheel and crashed Saturday, rolling over twice. Sixteen people were killed on the spot – 10 from the same family, according to reports – and three more died at Mvurwi Hospital.

Fourteen people lost their lives in a crash on Tuesday of an overcrowded commuter bus on the Harare-Mutare highway. The bus overturned after one of its tires burst.

For a closer look at the crisis on Zimbabwe’s highways, VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to Oliver Mandipaka, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and Blessing Chebundo, chairman of Parliament's committee on transport.

Mandipaka said the two accidents were caused by human error and mechanical failures. He said the national police force has been running and will continue to run road safety campaigns in hopes that drivers will heed the call to drive roadworthy vehicles.

Mandipaka added that police visibility on highways would be increased.

"We recently acquired state-of-the-art vehicles to ensure that our police officers monitor what happens along highways and make sure that drivers abide by road rules and regulations," Mandipaka said.

One VOA Studio 7 listener said he counted nine police checkpoints between Norton and Harare, where police checked road-worthiness of commuter buses.

"We want our roads to be safe and will support efforts to make sure people do not continue to die like chickens as is currently the case," the listener said.

Chebundo said his committee's recommendations to overhaul the country's road system have been noted but have not been implemented due to shortages of funds. Of particular concern are the Harare-Chirundu highway leading to the border with Zambia, and the even more heavily traveled Harare-Beitbridge road to the South African border.

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