By George Chellah in Nyimba and Agness Changala in Lusaka
Sat 30 July 2011, 14:00 CAT
PF leader Michael Sata yesterday visited the Nyimba road accident and discovered a body that remained uncollected after the crash. And the government has summoned operators of the bus and truck involved in the Nyimba accident, which left 35 people dead, to report to the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA).
Sata, who is on a campaign trail in Eastern Province, arrived at the accident scene around 14:00 hours to acquaint himself with what happened. Accompanied by former Kabwata member of parliament Given Lubinda and former Kanyama member of parliament Gerry Chanda, Sata went around the area and discovered a body which was partially buried under bags of lime.
Upon discovering the body, Sata and his team immediately rushed to Nyimba Police Station to alert the police of what they had found at the accident scene.
At the police station, Sata was informed that the police had no fuel to get to the scene, forcing him to offer to buy the fuel and blankets to cover the body.
At that point, Sata was joined by former Chipata Central MP Lameck Mangani and PF Eastern Province chairperson Lucas Phiri.
After the police vehicle was refueled, Sata and his team, which included the police, drove back to collect the body.
The team arrived back at the scene at exactly 15:00 hours and started removing the bags of lime covering the body, an exercise that lasted six minutes.
The body was then placed on a Nyimba police van registration number ZP 1793B.
Sata and his team accompanied the body to Nyimba District Hospital Mortuary.
At the hospital Sata also visited an accident victim still admitted there.
Later in an interview, Sata complained about the manner the government had handled the crisis in Nyimba.
“If you had a responsible government, they should have combed the area and removed those bags of lime at the scene so that they do a thorough search,” Sata said.
“Can you imagine we were just driving along the road and decided to check the scene and discovered the body. If we had not been on the scene, that body would not have been discovered. That body could have even been eaten by hyenas because it is in the bush.”
Sata appealed to President Rupiah Banda to be human and show respect to people that lost their lives in the Nyimba accident.
“I think it’s high time Rupiah started treating Zambians like human beings. This President has more respect for the so-called fake investors than our people,” Sata said. “ Rupiah’s love for money is depressing. How can the President rush to go and commission a cement plant in Ndola and ignore such a serious calamity? Commissioning means a lot to him than the people he claims to be serving.
Let Zambians open their eyes because Rupiah is a selfish and insensitive leader.”
“When there was a similar accident during the Kaunda days on the same road where 47 people died, Kaunda had to cut short his visit to Egypt and returned home to attend to the disaster. Rupiah is not a child, we expect him to treat such matters of national importance with seriousness. Honestly, I am saddened by this neglect and lack of respect for our people.”
Sata urged the government to take a leaf from how the Chinese handled the train disaster.
“When about 43 people died in China, the Chinese President went to visit the crash site and now they are even doing a national inquiry on what went wrong,” Sata said.
But here, a disaster happens and the first thing the President does is to rush to commission some cement plant instead of rushing to comfort the survivors and console those who had lost their loved one.”
He said it was regrettable that lives were being lost on Zambian roads every day.
“This week we have lost about 35 people and according to Mr Banda, that is not a crisis. Even the government’s reaction is one that is business as usual. We need to restrict the speed of public service vehicles and put in place effective monitoring systems,” Sata said.
“We can’t continue losing people this, like we are not all thinking.
If you find 35 animals dead in a kraal, it’s a crisis. What about people? Why is this government so insensitive to the plight of Zambian people,”
“The laissez-faire attitude where people treat disasters of this magnitude as a business as usual has to come to an end. There is no way 35 people can die and there is no national sadness. How many people should die before we mourn as a country? We also have to make travelling on our roads safe so that our people don’t continue losing mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles children and other relatives.
Sata said true leadership was measured by how a person responded to calamities.
And communications and transport permanent secretary Dominic Sichinga yesterday announced that he had summoned the two operators to help the agency deal what happened in Nyimba.
Sichinga directed that both operators take their fleet of motor vehicles and trailers registered on their Road Service Licences (RSLs) to RTSA offices on Tuesday at 10:00 hrs.
He further directed the operators to take their licensed drivers along with them.
“These directives should be taken seriously. Failure to adhere to the directives will result in the instant cancellation of the Road Service Licences for both operators,” Sichinga said.
He said the government was concerned that operators and drivers were exhibiting high levels of poor road user behaviour which was causing loss of life.
Sichinga urged operators and drivers to join in the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety as it would benefit them