Ramaphosa, Masisi visit site of Limpopo bus crash

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Presidents of South Africa and Botswana have expressed gratitude to emergency personnel and government officials who responded to the bus crash scene where 45 Botswana nationals perished on the eve of the Easter weekend.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Mokgweetsi Masisi visited the Mmamatlakala bridge between Mokopane and Marken, where the crash happened. The deceased were traveling from Gaborone in Botswana to the Saint Engenas ZCC outside Polokwane for the Easter conference when their bus crashed of the bridge and caught fire.

It was a horrific crash that made international headlines.

It’s believed the bus driver lost control. The bus had a trailer that was believed have carried flammables, that included gas cylinders and paraffin stoves.

Residents from nearby Mmamatlakala village were among the first to arrive at the crash scene. They believe that had firefighters arrived at the scene earlier, some of the bus occupants could have survived.

“I got here about 30 minutes after the crash and the bus was just starting to catch fire, we immediately left to a nearby place where we could get cellphone reception and called the police station. The first ambulance that got here, found the bus already engulfed and they could not do anything as there were no firefighters. We literally watched the bus occupants burn to ashes, I think had the fire truck arrived earlier, some of the people could have lived,” says eyewitness Thomas Moerane.

Masisi has expressed gratitude for the manner in which South Africa handled the crash.

“We are here really not only to see and bear witness to the site where our citizens ended on that fateful day so that we can go back and tell Batswana that we know where their children ended. But mainly to give thanks to the people of South Africa led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, absolute thanks and everyone who works in his government, the local government led by the premier, the ministers, the MEC, the various diverse responders who demonstrated to the world what excellence true compassion can be,”

His South African counterpart also praised the cooperation between the two countries.

“We were able to work with the government of Botswana in its various iterations, today we have reflected on that and are grateful that we live in a liberated South Africa. As President Masisi was saying, where the good relations become the oil that enables us to work well without any friction, without any doubt, without any suspicion so I am glad that President Masisi and the First Lady are here and have also enabled me to come to the site so that we can see for ourselves how these souls that were going to a pilgrim were lost,” says Ramaphosa.

Six of the 45 bodies have been positively identified. The bodies are ready for repatriation. Authorities say the process of identifying the remainder of the deceased are moving with speed.

“Six have been positively identified, we are expecting their families from Botswana, from tomorrow, the repatriation process will start, so that will be done. The remaining still remains, still human remains, the process of tissue sampling has been completed, all the samples have been sent to our labs. 72 tissue samplings are already at the lab and are undergoing analysis at an advanced stage, remember we said our Botswana counterparts will do DNA sampling for comparison, they have completed, they have sent the data. We have the data for comparisons sooner than you think. The two presidents will be inviting you as they hand over the remains,” says Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba.

Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga says preliminary investigations indicate that the cause of the crash is human error.