A sombre send-off for 26 Centane bus crash victims
Among those who were laid to rest was 3-year-old Akahlulwa Soga, who was the first person to be airlifted from Centane, in the Eastern Cape, to East London after the horrific accident, but who later died of his injuries.
Last Monday morning, the bus, transporting mostly pensioners, plunged down a ravine while en route to Butterworth.
The driver, who is among the dead, is believed to have lost control after a mechanical failure. His wife also died.
The bus is owned by Africa’s Best 350, which is contracted by the Eastern Cape government to service rural communities.
Over 2500 people attended the funeral on Friday at the Cebe Junior Secondary School, where families decried the poor road infrastructure in the area.
Spokesperson for the families, Phumlani Ndzotyana, whose sister Mandisa Millicent Ndzotyana was also killed, told how driving in Chebe was a nightmare, especially when it was raining.
“We want a tarred road here. There’s a bridge near the scene where the accident occurred, which always causes drownings during rainy days. It has been years of empty promises from government,” he said.
Ngqalelo Mkhunqwana, the principal of the school, said it had been a hard period, even though social workers had provided counselling.
“I am from this area and I know all the parents who died there. As the school, we even lost a school governing body member (Nobandla Eunice Papa) in that accident.”
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, who attended the funeral, said a report on the bus accident would be released next week.
Mbalula said the bus was “unroadworthy” and that there was “no way it would have escaped” the accident.
He also lashed out at “corrupt officials” for not prioritising the needs of people in rural areas.
Eastern Cape Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe and the deputy speaker for the Eastern Cape Legislature, Mlibo Qhobishiyane, also attended the funeral.
Premier Oscar Mabuyane promised a tarred road for local residents.
“In our State of the Province Address, we announced that we will give priority to rural roads. This route is one of them. Coming to this funeral, I was using this road and have seen how bad it is.
“We apologise to the Centane people and we promise to take action. I would also like to express my gratitude to Centane locals who were the first to arrive on the accident scene to rescue people,” the premier said.
Five years ago, 35 people were killed in an accident involving the same bus company on a rural road accident at Centane’s neighbouring town of Willowvale.