By GEOFFREY NYAROTA
On Friday October I, 2021, I set out of Harare at sunset bound for the town of Kadoma, en-route to Sanyati, 110 km north-west of the former Mashonaland West province textile producing town.
Drivers who have negotiated their way along the remains of the road between Kadoma and Sanyati must think I am crazy for wanting to travel along that route after dark.
But I was spending the night in Kadoma, to proceed to Sanyati the following morning.
I was no stranger to the road having last travelled there back in 2015 when it had long become a veritable hell-run.
On arrival back in Harare then I had communicated with my relatives in Sanyati and explained my ordeal on the return journey when I had a problem with a broken suspension.
I fell just short of advising them then that I would not visit again unless it was absolutely necessary to do so.
Such necessity prompted my recent journey.
But before I narrate my ordeal between Kadoma and Sanyati a week ago, first things first.
The distance between Chegutu and Kadoma is 33 km of a straight stretch of road.
On my recent journey a long line of cars drove at a steady pace bumper to bumper, both behind and ahead of me.
With about 10km to go, I checked in my mirror in the gathering dusk to see what appeared in the headlights of traffic to be a gleaming brand new bus.
The driver was executing the unbelievable manoeuvre of overtaking the long line of vehicles.
Such daring was not only reckless, it was quite clearly insane.
As the bus sped past me in the semi-darkness I still managed to observe the logo of the now much-talked about Zupco emblazoned down its flank.
After my vehicle the bus carried on in the wrong lane, overtaking seven or eight more vehicles, including two long and heavily loaded trucks, or gonyets as Zimbabweans love to call them.
The bus driver was forced back to his own lane by the menacing flashlights of vehicles approaching in the opposite direction.
Here was another accident clearly applying to happen to the delight of social media paparazzi, whose crude training is to take pictures before they seek to help accident victims, if ever.
I was not able to capture the blurred registration number of the speeding bus, but I silently prayed for its load of passengers whose lives were in the hands of this demon of a driver.
If Zupco want to identify the lunatic in question, the company couldn’t have had that many west-bound vehicles deployed along the 30 km stretch of road between Chegutu and Kadoma just before 7pm that Friday night of October 1, 2021.
If they do identify him, my recommendation to Zupco is that their human resources department must promptly serve the culprit with instant marching orders in order to save the lives of innocent Zimbabweans.
After an overnight stay in Kadoma I proceeded north-west heading for Sanyati, 110km further on, along the long and horrifyingly neglected hell-run of a road that joins the former ARDA cotton-growing centre along the Munyati River with the former textile processing Mashonaland West province town.
What remains of the former road is in such a shameful condition that those in the government of the Second Republic, who are vested with the onerous responsibility of maintaining our road network must hang their heads in collective shame at the mere mention of the name of that particular road.
In its heyday this road provided passage for truck-loads travelling from the cotton fields of Sanyati and Gokwe to the David Whitehead textile manufacturing company going back to 1952.
This vast complex provided employment for hundreds of Kadoma residents, while producing textiles for our once vibrant local clothing industry, as well as for the export market and earning precious foreign currency for Rhodesia.
Knowledgeable locals say the Sanyati-Kadoma road was last surfaced through the effort of a certain Shaun Hundermark, who was the Zanu-PF legislator for their constituency.
With his departure towards the end of the last century the road has undergone total and inexorable neglect and, with the decline in the production of cotton the value of the road has diminished, as it were.
That is, of course, with the notable exception of the miraculous Honda Fit mishikashika.
The Japanese manufacturer of this truly amazing little car must win the award for building the world’s toughest car.
Where modern SUVs from the city struggle to negotiate the Sanyati Road, the Honda Fit plies there daily while overloaded with up to 10 passengers.
But anyone who is either brave or stupid enough to be a passenger in such circumstances deserves whatever happens to them.
To be quite honest, a 90km stretch of this road is the mother of all terrible roads in Zimbabwe.
It deserves an entry in the Guinness Book of Records in that regard.
A vehicle that is driven daily on that road cannot last a year in roadworthy condition.
It is cruel for any administration that calls itself a people’s government to subject citizens to such excruciating punishment.
On the way back, 50km before Kadoma I picked up a desperate motorist and two of his wheels, both tyres shredded.
He abandoned his pick-up truck virtually in the middle of the road.
It was a sorry sight.
ZBC-TV would do the people of Sanyati and Gokwe beyond a great service if they deployed a crew under the watchful eye of the intrepid and now roving Rueben Barwe to produce a documentary on the Kadoma-Sanyati road.
*Read full article on www.thestandard.co.zw
It would reduce their television viewers to tears of anger, while the crew would become instant heroes.
Testimony abounds of the wholly unacceptable decline in the condition of this particular road.
Acting on advice dispensed on departure from Kadoma I took a certain detour to avoid the last stretch before Sanyati.
This was a grievous error.
About 15 km before destination along the recommended bush road a calliper on the front brakes worked itself loose and I was lucky to bring the vehicle to a halt safely without hurtling into the bush, to be stopped by a tree.
I was stranded in the middle of the bush for two hours with no phone because of the absence of Econet network.
This was before a rescue team was dispatched by my anxious hosts in Sanyati,
I must confess that I cursed the successors to Sean Hundermark for allowing such abominable deterioration to continue unchecked on a crucial road.
I recently read an article where the Second Republic was singing praises of itself while highlighting its achievements, especially in the construction or maintenance of our road network, with the ZBC-TV cameramen in loyal attendance.
I want to propose that the self-praise songs desist forthwith, that is until the Kadoma-Sanyati road is refurbished back to a satisfactory condition.
Meanwhile I wish Transport minister Honourable Felix Mhona, or his permanent secretary, Amos Marawa, or both could be persuaded to take a day off from their ostensibly busy office schedules to visit Sanyati by road via Kadoma.
Apart from being shell-shocked by the condition of the road, they will most likely be promptly prodded into taking instant remedial action for the benefit of the long-suffering people of Sanyati and Gokwe.
As if not to be outdone the return journey of my trip was not entirely without its own melodrama.
By some uncanny coincidence, at about the same position between Kadoma and Chegutu and at about the same time just before 7PM on Sunday, October 3, I was almost dispatched to heaven by another Zupco bus speeding in the opposite direction.
A vehicle travelling in front of me suddenly veered of the road and stopped just short of a ditch, to give way to the bus which was overtaking a long line of vehicles, while defiantly occupying our own lane.
I wonder where the Zupco human resources department is currently recruiting such drivers.
Two days ago Zudac, which describes itself as the Trade Union for Public and Commercial Transport Workers in Zimbabwe, issued a press statement following an accident 10 kilometres out of Bulawayo which reportedly killed 10 people.
The crudely written statement suggested that two buses belonging to the same CAG company were involved.
They were allegedly speeding while seeking to block a Zupco bus from overtaking them and picking up passengers ahead.
“Bus operators are putting pressure on bus drivers who end up speeding to please their masters for fear of losing their jobs,” said the statement.
“We also blame our drivers for bowing down to unnecessary pressure from their money-thirsty operators.
”These accidents are not just happening one side but also Zupco buses have been involved in a series of fatal accidents.”
The Zudac Information department may not be the finest crafters of press statements, but their message is loud and clear.
*Geoffrey Nyarota is the founding editor-in-chief of the original Daily News. He can be contacted by email on: email@example.com)
- Geoffrey Nyarota is an award-winning investigative journalist and founding Editor-in-Chief of the original Daily News. He can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org