By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
03 July 2014
One of the tourists injured in Tuesday’s tram crash in Victoria Falls has died, while another is said to be in a critical condition in South Africa.
The tourist died on Wednesday from injuries sustained when a goods train collided head-on with a tram carrying a group of 32 holidaymakers from the US, Australia and Canada.
A Chronicle report said the group was in the resort town for a wedding. The event was aborted after 20 of the visitors, including a boy, were injured.
Sources told SW Radio Africa that 18 victims were treated at the PSMI medical centre while two, including the now-deceased, were flown to South Africa for specialist treatment.
The death contradicts ZANU PF Victoria Falls Mayor Sifiso Mpofu’s claims that the crash victims sustained bruises and “their condition is stable since they did not sustain serious injuries.”
Speaking to this station Thursday, National Railways of Zimbabwe spokesman Fanuel Masikati would not disclose what caused the accident, saying are still investigating.
He said: “The NRZ continues to play its pivotal role of promoting the growth and development of tourism in Zimbabwe by upholding and observing safety in all its operations as well as preserving the sanctity of human life.”
The fatal tram accident is the third incident involving NRZ trains in just one week. Last Friday and Saturday, two passenger trains derailed at Igusi in Nyamandlovu and at Gwayi River respectively. Masikati said there were no casualties in these incidents.
Pressed to comment on some reports that a signals systems failure had contributed to the accident on Tuesday, Masikati said: “I think I have given you all the information you needed now you are getting into more detail.
“The issue of signals and other things I think is now an infrastructure issue, let’s talk about the accident,” Masikati said.
Former Victoria Falls Deputy Mayor Million Moyo said the town’s residents were worried about the negative press that such accidents attract, which he said affected visitor numbers.
“I can’t say for sure what caused the accident but we strongly suspect it was negligence. The whole NRZ system is in a shambles, with drivers and engineers using mobile phones to communicate.
Moyo said they also questioned the calibre of engineers at the NRZ saying most of them were not well-qualified. “Whether it was a signals failure or someone did not change the lines, because sometimes they change the tracks to redirect trains, someone at NRZ is to blame.
“We survive through tourists here at Vic Falls and when such things happen the numbers dwindle and that affects our very livelihood and survival as we do not have any other industry to rely on,” Moyo added.
The NRZ infrastructure has deteriorated rapidly in recent years, largely due to financial mismanagement, incompetent leadership and political meddling.
Across the country the rail network’s electrical and signals systems has either been vandalised or is unserviceable due to age, with billions needed for a total revamp.
The Mugabe administration says it has no money to fund the network or any other infrastructure upgrades for that matter. Without fixing the network, more accidents and derailments are set to occur, costing the lives of both locals and foreigners using the country’s obsolete rail service.