Saturday, 5 February 2022


On Christmas Day last year, Zimbabwe woke up to the news of a horrific road traffic accident that had happened just outside Mutare.

Six people died after a bus belonging to Beta Bus Services collided head-on with a petrol tanker.

Both the bus and the truck burst into flames. Five people were burnt beyond recognition.

The ferocious and menacing fire kept most people who would have wanted to assist at bay, but it could not deter one tall and heavily-built man from Kadoma.

In the face of apparent danger, Sirizani Butau literally risked life and limb rushing towards the blazing inferno in an attempt to save as many lives as he could.

He could only manage to rescue eight people who were trapped inside the bus.

However, he has had to live with the haunting images and regret after failing to extricate his friend and workmate, Rufu Zambezi, from the raging flames.

“I was coming from Beira, Mozambique, and the truck that I was driving was loaded with petrol.

“We were in a convoy comprising six trucks and my workmate Rufu Zambezi was driving in front of me,” recounted Butau to The Sunday Mail from his Munhumutapa home in Kadoma.

As he was approaching the Mutare tollgate, he noticed a plume of black smoke billowing into the air.

As he drew closer, he realised an accident had occurred and the road had been blocked.

“When I arrived at the scene of the accident, I noticed that the haulage truck that had collided with the bus was the one that was being driven by my workmate and best friend,” he said.

He quickly sprang into action and dashed towards the bus.

He noticed three badly injured people whom he decided to leave behind so that they would be attended by paramedics.

Sadly, they were burnt to death when the bus caught fire.

In the end, he rescued eight passengers.

He immediately turned his attention to the haulage truck and tried to force open the door to save his friend.

“I tried to forcefully open the door, but I failed. My friend was still alive and he advised me to look for an iron rod to use to open the door through sheer force.

“I approached a haulage truck driver who had parked nearby and I was given the rod.”

Sadly, the bystanders who had gathered around the accident scene did not lend their assistance.

Instead, they were busy capturing pictures and videos with their smartphones.

Further heartbreak was to follow.

“As I was trying to open the haulage truck door, we noticed that the truck was on fire.

“My legs and arms were drenched in petrol and immediately I knew the truck was going to explode.”

He added: “When Zambezi noticed that the truck had caught fire, he closed his eyes and bowed his head down against the steering wheel. He had resigned to fate.”

Within moments, both Zambezi’s truck and Butau’s were on fire.

After noticing that his legs and arms had caught fire, the father of three dashed to a nearby puddle and soaked his body in the muddy water.

“I watched from the puddle as my friend was being consumed by the fire.”

The images of his friend being burnt alive are still etched in his memory.

“Zambezi was my best friend. I had gone with him on numerous trips to as far away as the DRC. Watching him die was the most painful thing that I have had to endure.”

He strongly feels that had bystanders decided to help, his friend would have been alive today.

“Had they helped me force the truck door to open, Zambezi would have been alive today. We should use cellphones to save lives and not to take videos as people lose their lives,” he said dejectedly.

After the accident, Butau was admitted to a hospital in Mutare, before being transferred to a private clinic in Kadoma.

“The hospitals in Mutare and Kadoma treated me free of charge. Since the day of the accident, I was spending US$250 after every two days on special band-aids alone. This money was coming from well-wishers,” he said.

He is now on his way to full recovery.

“My doctors said I should be in good health by March. I am almost there. Besides an infection on my right leg, the recovery path has been surprisingly easy.”

His efforts gained him admiration, with his name commanding 47 300 search results on Google.

Despite his new-found fame, he remains grounded.

“I am not sure if hero is the correct word to describe me. All I can say is that I reacted to an urgent call instinctively. I only fulfilled God’s wish to save lives,” he said.

“Nothing much has changed. I am still the truck driver next door. The only notable change is maybe the fact that my cellphone is now a bit busier as sympathisers, friends and relatives are always calling, checking on my condition.”

Like thorns are to roses, being well-known brought its fair share of headaches for the gentle giant.

During the early days of his recovery process, some people were seemingly up to no good.

“I had mysterious calls from people in India and Nigeria who were asking me very strange questions. I suspected that these people were up to no good; they must have been members of a Satanic cult,” he said.

Some ladies even went as far as calling to propose love to Butau as he lay wounded in bed.

“One lady, a Zimbabwean, went straight to the point: She proposed love to me. Maybe she thought that I was now very rich from the donations.”

He, however, refused to disclose how much he received from well-wishers.

“I am yet to sit down and do the calculations. My focus is on full recovery.

“What I can say at the moment is that I am very grateful to everyone who contributed towards my welfare during this time of great need.”

A member of an apostolic sect, Butau was born and grew up in the mining town of Kadoma. Sunday Mail


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