Several prominent ANC leaders in Limpopo had to alter their plans to commemorate the party’s 112th anniversary at Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga.
They were compelled to attend to a devastating incident that resulted in the loss of five lives in Magoebaskloof, near Tzaneen.
The incident occurred in the early hours of Saturday, January 13, 2024, when one of three buses ferrying ANC members overturned and fell 20 meters into the gorge after crashing onto the back of another on the dangerous mountainous road.
According to Vongani Chauke, a spokesperson in the office of Limpopo MEC for Transport and Community Safety, Florence Radzilani, the incident occurred on the R71 at around 3:30 am.
“Limpopo MEC for Transport and Community Safety, Florence Radzilani, and other government leaders, have been recused from the January 8 Statement in Mbombela, to attend to an accident scene on the R71, at the Magoebaskloof outside Tzaneen. The accident happened around 3:30 am.
“MEC Radzilani will be leading a team of government leaders, including the MEC for Health, Dr. Phophi Ramathuba, the Executive Mayor of Mopani District, Councillor Pule Shayi, the Mayor of Molemole Local Municipality, Councillor Edward Paya, and other government leaders as they will be visiting the scene of the accident, and patients in various hospitals,” said Chauke.
According to Chauke, the closure of the road was necessary in order to facilitate the work of emergency services.
Drivers heading from Polokwane to Tzaneen were recommended to consider taking the R528 (George’s Valley) or the R36 (Duiwelskloof) road as an alternate route.
“Preliminary reports indicate that three buses were following each other, when the third bus hit the second one from behind, and overturned into a gorge. The buses were carrying ANC members from the Molemole Sub-Region, within the Capricorn District Municipality.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that there are five fatalities from the accident, with several passengers sustaining injuries. The injured passengers have been transferred to hospitals in the Mopani district,” said Chauke.
The Magoebaskloof road has unfortunately been the site of numerous tragic accidents, resulting in the loss of many lives over several decades.
The road is notorious for its foggy conditions, making it a challenging route to navigate. However, some drivers push the limits and speed along its dangerous path.
It’s not the first time ANC members died on their way to party rallies.
In 2016, 10 ANC members were killed when a bus rolled several times in the Free State on its way from the party’s local government manifesto launch in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). Some passengers were ejected from the bus, while others were trapped under the wreckage. Others were killed when a Great North Transport (GNT) rolled at Mooketsi in Limpopo.
Meanwhile, festivities at the Mbombela Stadium started slowly, prompting social media users to ridicule the ANC for their inability to pack the venue to its full capacity.
Nevertheless, ANC supporters who were lingering outside began entering the stadium after top officials appealed to the police to open all the gates.
In apologizing for the late start to the festivities, party national chairperson Gwede Mantashe said he was happy that the stadium was finally full.
He said the delays were due to some buses being stoned as they entered Mbombela Stadium.
“The Stadium is full despite all the problems. We know there were people who were stoning buses in certain areas. We know there was a problem of security blocking the entrance, but the stadium is full,” Mantashe said.
ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa was scheduled to deliver his January 8th Statement message at 11am, but he had not addressed the audience by midday.