Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has offered condolences to the families and friends of the victims of a horrific road accident in Limpopo, which claimed the lives of 27 people on Friday afternoon.
Ramaphosa had learned with sadness of the tragic passing away of more than 27 people, among them two small children, in a multiple vehicle accident on the N1 in Limpopo, the presidency said in a statement on Saturday.
Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased and wished those who sustained injuries a speedy recovery. He also praised emergency services crews and the department of transport for their swift action on the scene and their efforts to get urgent medical attention to the victims.
“No effort should be spared to ensure tragedies of this nature are completely avoidable. Road users are urged to exercise both courtesy and caution on our roads. It is all the more worrying considering that barely a month ago 11 people lost their lives on the same stretch of road when a bus overturned.
“I repeat the message we as government continuously reinforce, more so during October which is National Transport Month - speeding can and does kill,” Ramaphosa said.
He also encouraged anyone who observed unsafe behaviour on the roads to report this to law enforcement agencies.
In a separate statement, Democratic Alliance Limpopo premier candidate Jacques Smalle said the DA was deeply saddened by the passing of 27 people in the horrific accident, and extended its sincere condolences to the families and all those who were affected by the accident. This was but one of many accidents that had taken place in the province in the past few months.
"This accident occurred after a front tire of a truck burst, causing it to hit oncoming traffic. This leaves various questions about vehicle safety in the province and the efficient monitoring thereof by the government. Government must ensure that proper checks are in place and that vehicle safety is properly monitored to prevent further unnecessary loss of life.
"Enough people have unnecessarily lost their lives on Limpopo roads. No unworthy vehicle should be allowed to travel on our roads. The DA stands together with the families as they mourn the passing of their loved ones and would like to wish those who were injured a speedy recovery," Smalle said.
Earlier on Saturday, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) warned all transport operators that they could face severe consequences, including criminal charges, if they continued to ignore duties imposed on them by transport regulations.
"Regulations impose duties on the operators to exercise control over their vehicles and drivers while on public roads. This includes the responsibility to ensure that vehicles are in a roadworthy state and drivers are fit and proper to operate those vehicles," RTMC spokesman Simon Zwane said.
Failure to execute these responsibilities could result in the cancellation of operator permits with severe consequences for businesses concerned. Vehicles could also be impounded and prevented from continuing their journeys until all defects had been repaired. Criminal charges could be imposed where fatal crashes were involved, he said.
This warning followed a spate of major road crashes since the beginning of the year involving trucks and buses, with Friday's accident being the most devastating. An estimated 91 people had died while 275 were injured in major collisions involving trucks and buses throughout the country since the beginning of the year.
Failing to keep the vehicles under control, driving in the face of oncoming traffic, driving at excessive speed, and failing to keep a proper lookout had been identified as some of the human factors that contributed to the majority of these crashes. Mechanical failures and road conditions contributed to a very small number of the crashes.
"The RTMC would like to send heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of people who died in the Friday collision and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. The RTMC will be working with the SAPS [South African Police Service] and other law enforcement authorities to determine the cause of the crash," Zwane said.
On Friday, Limpopo police said 27 people, including two children, died when a truck collided with four motor vehicles in Mookgopong outside Modimolle. Spokesman Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said the truck, carrying cement, was travelling along the N1 southbound when the crash happened.
''Today [Friday] at about 2.30pm a truck travelling along the N1 south lost control onto the other lane facing the oncoming traffic. It collided with four motor vehicles, including a 22-seater Mercedes Benz bus and a Nissan NP200 which caught fire on impact. Police investigations continue.''
The process of identifying the deceased was under way. Four people survived the accident and were being treated for injuries in hospitals, Ngoepe said.
African News Agency/ANA