July 15, 2024

Serval wild cat

Two tragedies on the road

It was mid-morning and I was on route from Harare heading out towards Bindura, with my partner Mercy and her brother (my new bro) Hope. It is one of my favourite drives. Out of the other side of Harare on Golden Steps Road, through Marlborough, where we occasionally stop to buy liberally salted, roasted maize from the roadside.

Several miles past the tollgate I spotted a dead animal at the side of the road. Fortunately, Mercy also saw it, to confirm that I had not imagined it. We were both convinced that it was a young Cheetah, which we suspected had possibly escaped from a safari park. However, after some internet searches it was confirmed to be a Serval wild cat. An easy mistake to make with just a split second sighting; a tragedy just the same.

On through the Golden steps themselves, shadowed by mountains on all sides and past beautiful Mazowe dam.

The road is not too bad at all, unless of course, you get stuck behind some of the snail paced monster sized trucks carrying full, heavy loads. And of course, there are the impatient, idiotic dangerous drivers, who feel they have the right to push up behind and tailgate, overtake, undertake and cut in; forcing you to swerve, brake and count your blessings that you are not involved in a serious accident.

This brings me to the silver Mercedes saloon, which I saw in my rear view mirror, coming up behind me at speed. It was overtaking a long line of traffic just as we entered Mazowe. Just past Grace’s place and just before the Mazowe hotel and casino. In front I could see an old truck piled up high with cabbages heading for a collision course with the Mercedes. It had nowhere to go, as the side of the road was busy with people. The Mercedes driver wasn’t going to surrender. As he accelerated past me, I was able to see him; a young man and his two passengers all holding cans of beer, laughing as I held down my horn and shouted through my window at them. However, they would not have heard what I said, as the loud rap music they were playing drowned me out.

The driver cut in front of me and braked hard to avoid running into the back of the Mazda pick-up, which had been in front of me. The passengers in the back of the pick-up had been panic stricken and they too shouted and cursed the young Mercedes driver, who did no more than immediately pull out and fly past them and disappear into the distance; totally oblivious to their fist waving and profanities.

I calmed down and carried on to our destination. Several hours later, on the return journey, we came up behind a line of slow moving traffic half way between Glendale and Mazowe. I could see a blue light flashing ahead, as we crawled along and approached what was obviously the scene of an accident.

The wreckage of what had once been a small, compact Japanese hatchback was scattered over a great area. Larger parts had been catapulted across the other side of the road and landed in a ditch on the other side of the grass verge.

When the driver left home from Harare that morning and drove his pride and joy out of his gate, he wouldn’t have imagined that just a short while later, it would be unrecognisable, virtually cut in half and the front end completely squashed up to dashboard. He certainly wasn’t expecting less than an hour later, at worst, to die behind the wheel or at best, to end up in hospital in a critical condition with serious life changing injuries. He had probably left home with a passing farewell to his wife, with maybe a peck on the cheek, having seen his children off to school, earlier. Let’s hope that they all parted on good terms and there was no animosity, as it may have been the last time they saw each another.

There was a crowd of people milling around on the grass verge, some were talking to the police officers on hand. It was then that I noticed a silver Mercedes on some land just beyond the verge. Yes, it was the same vehicle we had encountered earlier and to the side of the car were the three young men being interviewed by a large, no nonsense policeman. They were not looking so cocksure of themselves now.

They appeared to be typical of their type: brash, flash and with attitude. They were probably the spoilt sons of rich parents, who probably lived in mansions in somewhere, like Borrowdale Brooke. They had obviously not considered that their lives would be changed forever in a split second. And that because of their actions, the driver in particular, would have to carry the guilt of what damage he had done to the driver of the smaller Japanese vehicle and the effect on his family.

We pulled up just beyond the incident and walked back to inform one of the officers of our earlier experience that morning; that we had witnessed that the driver had been drinking and driving dangerously. He confirmed that they already had enough witnesses and evidence. Apparently, the driver had performed the same manoeuvre as earlier, but had not foreseen that a truck heading towards him would veer across the road and crush the car that he had just overtaken. The boys were bang to rights and would hopefully be punished accordingly. Unless of course, one of their fathers held some sway and was able to coerce some influence in the right quarter. The officer confirmed that the victim had been taken away by ambulance, but wouldn’t divulge his condition, but by his grave expression it appeared that the man would be joining the long list of road fatalities. Another tragedy on the road. When my father was teaching me to drive, he used to say that a car is a weapon and will kill people if in the wrong hands.


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