Matsha accident; more questions than answers

The scene of the accident. Part of the windscreen is still visible PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
The scene of the accident. Part of the windscreen is still visible PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

A week after the fatal road accident that led to the demise of seven Matsha College students and hundreds injured, questions still linger on. Mmegi Staff Writers THALEFANG CHARLES and SHARON MATHALA spent time in Kang asking authorities, parents and other stakeholders’ difficult questions

On Friday November 13, two trucks and a bus arrived at Matsha College in Kang to fetch the Form 5 completing students to transport them to their respective home villages. Most students were from remote areas in the Kgalagadi District.

Mmegi has since established that one truck was from Kweneng District Council while another truck and a bus were from Kgalagadi District Council. The transportation of school children to and from their home villages is part of the government’s programme called Remote Areas Dwellers Programme (RADP) administered by the district councils.

 


Who authorised the trucks?

According to the Kweneng District Council chairman, Jeffery Sibisibi, the RADP is mandated with assisting underprivileged children through the learning years, from primary to secondary school. Sibisibi explained that the Social and Community Development (S&CD) office facilitates the caretaking of the students.

The chairman also revealed that his council has two buses.  Asked why a truck was used instead of buses, he said, “It is mostly because of the terrain, but investigations into the matter are underway.

At the moment we are concentrating on bidding farewell to the young souls, immediately after, an intense investigation on why a truck was used will get underway. But mostly some of the places are difficult to reach.”

On the other hand the students, parents and Matsha authorities say it is the norm that RADP students are ferried by trucks. “It is a standard practice.

At the beginning of every term, we are transported by trucks,” a student told Mmegi. Throughout Kweneng, Kgalagadi, and Gantsi districts, trucks transport school children.

 

How many passengers were in the Matsha truck?

No one knows the exact number of students that were on the truck to Kweneng. On Wednesday the police tried to break down the numbers, but failed to give an accurate figure.

Mmegi investigations have however uncovered that there was no passenger list when the truck left Matsha College, hence a week later no one has an idea how many students were on the truck. Police investigating officer Assistant Commissioner Engemadzo Sechele, who is the Divisional Traffic Officer South, confirmed that the only numbers they have are of students that were taken to the hospital.

He admitted that it might take time to tally the exact number of students who were in the truck at the time of the accident because it is possible that some could have escaped unscathed and did not go to any medical facility.

The headmaster of Matsha College is also clueless about the number of students that boarded the truck. All he knows is that there are 157 students from Kweneng that sat for examinations. But not all of them used the truck as some chose to use buses and private transport.

 

What caused the accident?

The police say they are still busy with their investigations led by Sechele.

The truck appears to have had a tyre-burst or flat-tyre before it overturned near Dutlwe. On Monday the police said if it could be found that the truck was overloaded the driver would be charged.

The road from Kanga, through Motokwe, Tswaane, Dutlwe, Takatokwane to Letlhakeng is a picture perfect open tarred road that does not need an off-road truck. It also remains to be seen whether the truck was roadworthy.

 

Who passed away?

Seven girls lost their lives in the accident and the police released their names on Wednesday night. They are: Oaitse Morualebe, Olebile Mosielele, Keakabetse L. Gakelebone all from Salajwe, Joyce Tsogwane of Takatokwane, Irene Molebeledi of Sorilatholo, Barati Sekgaolo of Khudumelapye and Neo Kealotswe of Mantshwabisi.

 

What survivors say?

Whilst the exact number of students that boarded the truck on Friday the 13th is still unknown, Mmegi investigations traced the four students who survived the misfortune. The three boys and one girl, all aged 18 years, reached their destination, at the remote settlement of Tshwaane, just before the accident.

Tshwaane about 15 minutes before the place of accident. Mmegi team visited Mosireletsi Maitswhenyo (18) at his home where he narrated his “lucky escape”.

He related the event of the day. He said that they boarded the truck just after 10 am at the school. He said that they were all eager to go home.

“The truck parked outside the school gate, we identified our transport because it was written Kweneng council. No one told us to get into the truck.”

“I did not see clearly but there where two strange men in our midst, and they turned out to be our drivers, they did not say a word to any of us as we loaded our luggage into the truck.”

The former Matsha College student further said “I do not know how many we were but there were a lot of us in that truck, it is always the case.

Sometimes when I cannot stand it, I take the bus but this time I did not have enough funds to transport me back home.”

“Only a handful managed to squat but for the rest, we could not because there was no space.

We were only lucky that the truck was open and air could circulate through.

We were the first batch to jump off the truck here in Tshwaane,” said the shaken student who further said that he was shocked to find out that his former schoolmates met their demise a few kilometres after they jumped off.

Oarabile Kaobela (18) is another lucky student who got off in Tswaane. Kaobela said the journey from Kang was fine.

“The driver was not speeding. It is just that ne re kgotlhagane tota. Ne o sa kgone le go itshikinya,” he said.

 

More Matsha problems

When the news of the fatal accident reached the form 4 students at Matsha, their response shocked many.

They were enraged. Instead of crying for their former mates, the students went on a rampage and vandalised the school.

They pelted the staffroom with stones, breaking windows and doors.

Speaking to Mmegi days later, most of the students revealed that they have been harbouring a lot of anger and complaints against the school headmaster Phodiso Phori.

They complain of abuse and tribalism tendencies form the school authorities.

Even those who have completed school cry foul at the school management. Mmegi has established that some teachers are also sympathetic to the students.

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