BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
A FEW weeks ago Zimbabweans woke up to horrific news that a Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco)-contracted Trip Trans bus had lost control and ploughed into eight vehicles before knocking down about 10 people in the vicinity, mostly vendors.
One of the victims, 51-year-old Shamiso Muguto from Epworth lost her legs in a split of a second. From her hospital bed, she narrated her painful ordeal.
“It was on Saturday, October 4, and I was enjoying the bustle at Mbare’s populous market Mupedzanhamo. The skies were clear and the day was promising to be hot and also humid,” Muguto said.
But Muguto said she was not concerned about the heat or the swelling crowd. She was only focused on ensuring she put food on the table for her family.
Since COVID-19 lockdown regulations were relaxed, most vendors have been trying to make up for lost time and with schools reopening, many are bent on raising money for school fees which has substantially gone up.
Muguto was one of the people that were hopeful that the day would bring good tidings and she said that she was smiling as she arranged her wares for sale.
She stifled a yawn which reminded her that she had woken up early to get to Mbare on time.
“I usually wake up around 3am and by 5am I will be on my way. My husband has not been well so I am the sole provider,” she said.
Muguto said she was chatting to another vendor when she suddenly heard a loud bang.
“A Trip Trans bus upon approaching Mupedzanhamo robots (from the flyover towards Magaba) seemed to have developed a fault and lost brakes,” she recalled.
Maguto said it all happened very fast and there was no time to think of the next move.
“As I was talking to a colleague, the bus came towards us. I saw other vendors dashing for cover and I only managed one step forward,” she said.
In that horrible moment, she said she momentarily froze, but was convinced that the single step she took to dodge the bus had spared her life.
“If I had not taken that step I do not think I would be here telling my story,” she said, her voice now raspy with emotion as she relived the moment of the impact.
The hurtling bus struck her down and dragged her for a distance before coming to a sudden stop against the post of an advertising board. It had mangled both her legs.
“I was very conscious and somehow knew my legs were gone. I lifted my right leg and saw a bone protruding and when I tried the same with my left it wouldn’t move,” she said sobbing.
Bravely, she crawled from under the bus unassisted.
“I had already come to peace with the loss of my legs and was just grateful that I was alive. At that time, I was anxious for help,” she said, adding that the strong urge to live emanated from the fact that she was the sole breadwinner, hence, was determined to make it.
“My phone was in a plastic bag tied around my wrist and I took it out and asked the people around me to call my relatives,” she added.
She was later taken to Sally Mugabe Central Hospital. Her legs could not be saved and she was amputated the same evening.
Although Muguto has accepted her loss, she is, however, struggling to comprehend the fact that the bus operator is denying responsibility and has not bothered to even check on her.
“No one from the bus company has come to see me and I have no idea how we will pay the hospital bill,” she says.
Her other concern besides the hospital bill is how she will pick up the pieces of her life.
“How will I be able to fend for my family now? I need help to move around,” she asked.
Sally Mugabe Central Hospital spokesperson Juliet Chikurunhe confirmed that Muguto was admitted at the hospital, but would not give any details.
Meanwhile, Muguto’s brother Archebold said as a family they were deeply concerned by the lack of co-operation from the bus operator.
“We have not heard from the bus operator and it seems he is not willing to help out or take responsibility. There are hospital bills to be taken care of and even her life after this will not be easy,” he said.
It is also alleged that the police officer handling the case said the operator was not forthcoming and suggested that the family should take the matter to the civil court.
“I will be seeking an audience with the bus operator, but I am not sure how that will go considering his stance so far,” he said.
Ten people were injured and two of them were critical, including Muguto and another woman who has hip injuries.
The family is now desperately appealing for donations in cash and kind.
“Anything that will assist her because now my sister is disabled. Of course, the doctors said they would be able to ascertain the degree of disability after healing is complete, but she will no longer be able to carry out her usual chores with ease,” Muguto’s brother said.
The heartbroken brother said his sister was the sole breadwinner who survived through farming at their rural home and selling produce.
“She was only a vendor during off farming season until the time the accident happened,” he said.
Lately, several Zupco-contracted buses have been involved in accidents prompting members of the public to raise concerns over their road worthiness. Many are in need of service and are not road worthy. This has adversely affected commuters since Zupco is the major passenger transport operator on our roads since the advent of COVID-19.