KwaZulu-Natal's MEC for arts and culture Hlengiwe Mvimbela at the Church of Scotland Hospital on Sunday morning, where she was visiting the survivors of a taxi crash that left six dead and nine seriously injured. Photo supplied

Durban – The Inkatha Freedom Party on Sunday expressed shock and sadness following the death of several young women who died in a fiery minibus taxi crash near Pomeroy after they attended a preparatory event in the lead-up to the annual reed dance scheduled for Nongoma in KwaZulu-Natal next month.

“We are saddened by the incident which claimed the lives of six young women, who still had a bright future ahead of them. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time. May they find solace in God,” IFP national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said.

He called on the department of transport to increase road safety checks to ensure that all vehicles travelling on KwaZulu-Natal’s roads, and nationally, were roadworthy and that their drivers were competent, so as to avoid incidents "like these happening time and time again”.

Earlier on Sunday, KwaZulu-Natal agriculture and rural development MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi offered condolences to the families of the five maidens and a man who died in the crash near Pomeroy on Saturday night.

"The five maidens including the driver who passed on were returning from Siyaya eMhlangeni in Dundee when they met their untimely death. Nine maidens who were injured were taken to a nearby hospital," Sithole-Moloi said.

“As the provincial government, we are deeply saddened by this horrific accident that claimed the lives of our beloved. We hope that the affected families and the community at large find lasting comfort in the Lord Almighty," she said.

The reed dance festival is held annually at King Goodwill Zwelithini's royal palace. Traditionally, only virgins are permitted to take part in the ceremony and young Zulu women from all over South Africa flock to KwaZulu-Natal to attend.

KwaZulu-Natal arts and culture MEC Hlengiwe Mvimbela said the young women were attending a preparatory event in the lead-up to the annual reed dance when a minibus taxi crashed and caught alight. It was alleged that the driver of the minibus taxi lost control of the vehicle and crashed, after which it caught alight. According to both MECs, some of the deceased were “burned beyond recognition”.

The nine injured people were transported to the Church of Scotland Hospital at Tugela Ferry, seven of them with serious burn wounds. They were later expected to be transported to a Pietermaritzburg area hospital.

“We are saddened by the incident where we lost six innocent lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time. Officials from the department have been on the scene since the accident happened and have been working with police to help identify victims and notify families,” Mvimbela said.

She said senior officials from the department had been dispatched to visit the affected families. Arts and culture was working with the department of social development to ensure those affected received counselling. Mavimbela also called on taxi associations to “exercise caution” when transporting maidens to events like Siyaya eMhlangeni.

“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 take place from September 6 to 7.”

“The department of arts and culture will continue working with the transport department to ensure that transport travelling to Nongoma is checked for road worthiness to avoid incidents like these from happening,” she said.

African News Agency (ANA)