Six Reed Dance maidens and a driver were killed when a taxi they were travelling in overturned and caught fire on the R33 road at Pomeroy, in the Mvoti district, near Greytown, on Saturday.
The accident, which happened just a few weeks before the Reed Dance ceremony, also left nine maidens critically injured.
The authorities said buses and taxis transporting thousands of maidens to the annual Reed Dance ceremony would be subjected to thorough roadworthiness inspections and police roadblocks to ensure safety.
The maidens were on their way home from the event “Siyaya eMhlangeni (We are going to the Reed Dance)” held at Msinga to prepare for the Reed Dance to be held at the Enyokeni Royal Palace at Nongoma next month.
Hlengiwe Myeza, the mother of Lungelo Mthethwa, 14, who survived the accident, said she received a call on Saturday about what had happened.
Myeza, who couldn’t hold back tears, said her daughter was lucky not to have been caught in the fire like other children. Lungelo is a Grade 8 pupil atMorningside High School in Dundee.
“Our children are injured. Lungelo didn’t suffer much burns, but I’m told that the lower part of her body is badly injured. I think that the taxi might have thrown her out when it was rolling.
“I didn’t even find her in the hospital when I got to the Church of Scotland Hospital, as I was told that she’d already been transferred to Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.”
KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, who conveyed his condolences to the families of the deceased, said the transport department would conduct thorough roadworthiness inspections on all buses and taxis that would be transporting maidens to the Reed Dance ceremony next month.
The MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Mxolisi Kaunda, said a preliminary investigation revealed that the driver lost control of the vehicle before it veered into a ditch.
“We’ve asked the police to intensify law enforcement operations and focus on drinking and driving, speeding and unroadworthy vehicles. Let us all obey road rules so we can save lives,” he said.
He added that the department and the Road Accident Fund were engaging with the families of the deceased to assist them with funeral arrangements.
The MEC for Arts and Culture, Hlengiwe Mavimbela, visited the families and the survivors in hospital.
She said out of the nine maidens who were admitted to hospital for burns, seven were in a critical condition.
“We urge drivers to exercise caution on the roads especially at this period when maidens will be travelling to various places to prepare for uMkhosi Womhlanga, which will be happening on September 6 and 7,” said Mavimbela.
She said the department would continue to work with the transport department to ensure that vehicles travelling to Nongoma were checked for roadworthiness.
“I’ve also dispatched senior officials to visit all affected families, and will be working closely with the Department of Social Development to ensure that all the affected children and families receive counselling,” said Mavimbela.
Royal Household spokesperson Prince Thulani Zulu said Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini extended his condolences to the families who had lost loved ones.
Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said a case of culpable homicide was opened.
Meanwhile, nine people died and dozens were injured in separate road accidents over the long weekend.
Five died and 17 were injured in a head-on collision between a light motor vehicle and a minibus taxi in Folweni, south of Durban, yesterday morning.
Zwane confirmed the incident, adding that charges of culpable homicide were being investigated.
On Saturday on the N2 at Paddock, another head-on collision resulted in the deaths of two people while four sustained serious injuries.
Also on Saturday on the N2, near Umkomaas, one person was killed and 14 were injured.
On Thursday, a teenage boy was killed and another boy was injured in a hit-and-run on the Edendale Road near Henley Dam, outside Pietermaritzburg.