Death toll mounts as Mugabe’s motorcade claims a third victim

MOTORCADE outriders providing security for Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe have killed one man and injured 15 in a third fatal crash in less than two weeks.

Police spokesman Martin Mbokochena yesterday blamed the repeated crashes on drivers’ “failure to respect” the president and his convoy.

The latest horrific incident happened on the Robert Mugabe highway near Mugabe’s home town of Zvimba on Sunday afternoon, when a commuter omnibus slammed head-on into a police escort vehicle accompanying Mugabe’s bulletproof limousine.

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“The [bus] driver tried to overtake a vehicle which was pulling off the road after seeing the escort vehicle approaching,” said chief police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena. “This resulted in a head-on collision between the commuter omnibus and the police vehicle.”

A male passenger died on impact, while 15 people – including two police officers – were injured.

The spokesman told the official Herald newspaper that he suspected the bus driver was “speeding”, although it is common knowledge that the 88-year-old leader speeds out to his birthplace, Kutama Mission, and back to Harare most weekends.

This time Mugabe is believed to have been on his way to Harare International Airport to catch a flight to attend the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil. Both vehicles were extensively damaged.

Mugabe’s motorcade was involved in two crashes earlier this month on exactly the same stretch of road. A homeless man was killed by one of Mugabe’s outrider motorbikes in the first, on June 6 as the president travelled to a funeral. On the way home later that day a member of the presidential guard was killed when a Land Cruiser burst a tyre and overturned.

Police say they’ll now carry out awareness campaigns teaching motorists “to respect state motorcades”.

“A state motorcade is not supposed to stop until it reaches its destination but we have some unruly elements in the society who want to disturb the movement,” said spokesman Mbokochena.

“It is very important as a nation to respect our leadership when passing,” he said. “Anyone found on the wrong side of the law will be arrested.”

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Heralded by police motorbikes equipped with sirens – known grimly as “Bob’s wailers” – Mugabe’s motorcade strikes panic into the heart of many a law-abiding motorist.

New regulations were passed by the Transport Ministry in 2002 which state that drivers must exit the road the motorcade is travelling on immediately – failure to do so can lead tocitizens being pulled out of the car and beaten.

Betraying the ageing dictator’s paranoia, the motorcade is one of the longest in Africa, made up of outriders, police cars, state security vehicles, Land Cruisers bristling with helmeted troopers and Mugabe’s infamous Zim 1 limousine with blacked-out windows.

An antiquated ambulance normally brings up the rear, although there is no indication the vehicle was used to help the victims of any of the recent crashes.

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