What started as a fine Mother’s Day retreat outing ended in grief for eight families at Illovo Sugar (Malawi) plc Dwangwa Estate in Nkhotakota after their loved ones died in a road accident on Sunday night.
The accident happened around Malaza area in Nkhata Bay District as the women, who had gone to Chikale Beach at Chintheche for a Mother’s Day retreat, were on their way home. Seven women and one man died in the accident.
In an interview yesterday, Nkhata Bay Police Station spokesperson Kondwani James said the vehicle plunged into Kapeska River after the driver allegedly struggled to negotiate a bend.
He said: “After Malaza, there is a sharp bend which gets you to a single lane bridge. This is where the accident happened.”
James said the vehicle, a Toyota Hiace registration CA 822, had 15 passengers on board. He said the driver and six other women sustained critical injuries and are being treated as in-patients at Nkhata Bay District Hospital.
He said police identified the driver as John Banda from Mbona Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kanyenda in Nkhotakota District.
On the other hand, the deceased are:
• Gaudesia Ngala, 54, of Salunet Village, T/A Katunga in Chikwawa
• Ausi Tondole, 40, of Chibwana Village, T/A Kanyenda in Nkhotakota
• Jean Kabichi, 40, of Kanyanda Village, T/A Malengamzoma in Nkhata Bay
• Jessie Shaba, 40, of Tawangoni Village, T/A Jalavikuwa in Mzimba
• Ellen Pamkuku, 32, of Mwachande Village, T/A Machinjiri in Blantyre
• Chikondi Mzenda, 30, of Kanyambo Village, T/A Kalimanjira in Nkhotakota
• Thandiwe Mhone Msumba, 27, of Limba Village, T/A Timbiri in Nkhata Bay
• Sipho Precious Saulos, 25, of Saiti Village, T/A Ganya in Ntcheu.
In a separate interview yesterday, Illovo Sugar (Malawi) plc managing director Lekani Katanduka was at pains to come to terms with the accident. He said the company will not be making any comment to let families grieve.
“For now, let us allow the families to mourn,” he said.
National Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya yesterday said they were yet to tabulate all accidents recorded during this year’s Mother’s Day celebrations.
But in August this year, he said general road accidents have been on the decline this year.
Kalaya said in comparison with the first halves of 2022 and 2023, there was a decline of four percent and 16 percent in the number of accidents and deaths, respectively.
He said: “A total of 2 627 road accidents were recorded during the period in 2023 compared to 2 728 road accidents which were recorded during the same period in 2022.
“And 380 of the accidents recorded in 2023, were fatal and 475 people lost their lives. This is a reduction when compared to the 476 fatal road accidents which were recorded during the period in 2022 from which 565 people died.”
However, Kalaya said there is need for joint efforts to effectively address the situation.
“As the police we are doing all we can to reduce road accidents, and as these records show, the number of accidents and deaths have reduced,” he said.
However, Road Safety Alert Foundation (Rosaf) recently called on the police and other stakeholders to take serious steps toward addressing road accidents.
Rosaf executive director Joel Jere said their body is concerned with many accidents that could be avoided on the country’s roads that have claimed lives.
He feared that the country will continue to lose productive citizens but also miss the target of reducing road accidents by 50 percent in 2030, as per the 2021-2030 United Nations Decade of Action on Road Safety that Malawi is signatory to.
“The recent wave of road crashes is robbing the country of productive people,” he said in a statement shared with The Nation on August 3.
October 15 is Mother’s Day designated to honour the contribution of mothers. During the day, people criss-cross the country to tourist destinations to spoil their parents.