Chivero tragedy: An eye witness account

I was one of the thousands of people who were at Hunyani Hills along Lake Chivero on Christmas Day, the same day when the 11 children died in the horrific accident.

Hordes of people from all over Harare and the neighbouring cities stormed Lake Chivero on Christmas Day.

The proprietor stood by the gate making a head count of people coming in. The charge was $3 per head and he was making a killing as it was probably his biggest pay day this year.

Upon entering the Hunyani Hills one was greeted by loud music, clouds of smoke coming from the braai stands which were mounted all over the place for use by patrons. Who could blame the people for celebrating Christmas Day?

People of all ages were going about their business of merry making. Children also enjoyed, some unsupervised while the parents were engrossed in merry-making and drinking beer as if the following day was never going to come.

Some teenage boys were actually smoking and drinking as their parents were too busy getting high on alcohol.

The atmosphere literally resembled the biblical Sodom and Gomorah because of the heavy drinking, merry-making, kissing and other unholy things that were happening.

Scantily dressed women gyrated and suggestively danced to music on the man-made beach while others took turns to throw each other into the water, yes into the crocodile-infested Lake Chivero.

Some even went as far as removing their clothes exposing their bodies to everyone who cared to see. Others even stripped clothes and remained with only their underwear.

And on a day like this where the adults decided to behave like children fighting each other and saying all sorts of obscenities, their unsupervised children took to the deadly waters while they swam freely without inhibition.

Others, whose parents were well oiled, queued to catch a ride on the speed boats which were available.

My 20-year-old sister Idah kept on nagging me for money to catch a ride on the speed boat but I flatly refused because the atmosphere of merry-making made me uncomfortable.

I could not comprehend how people who were consuming so much alcohol could be able to control a speed boat.

I have never seen such alcohol abuse in my entire life; I could not believe that there were no police monitoring the area as they usually do at public gatherings.

I still have to get an explanation from the owners of the place why when the crowds swelled, they did not call the police and other emergency crews like the fire brigade, ambulance crews and even doctors.

During the wild boat rides, I did not see anyone from the parks department to enforce laws like no boating after 6pm, no boating without life jackets and no overloading of boats.

Maybe they were overwhelmed by the huge amounts of cash they were collecting from people.

The boat crews would travel at deadly speeds, approaching the shores at lightning speed and making sudden U-turns showing off to the thousands of people that they were good.

The only policeman I saw was at the entrance directing traffic in an out of the venue, otherwise inside it was total chaos. It was as if the world was coming to an end.

Overloaded boats made their way across the river but luck ran out on one such trip resulting in the death of the 11 children. I left before the disaster as I had a instinctive feeling about all what was happening.

When I later heard that a boat had capsized, leaving 11 children dead, I was not surprised because the people were drunk, the uninhibited merry-making and the absence of life guards and safety measures were all a cocktail for disaster.

The boat crews were definitely high on something, I can’t say what but they must explain in the courts of law why they were behaving like they had never seen many people before.

Catherine Jason who lost her seven-year-old son Rasim said she was shocked when the boat operator and his colleague came back alone without the children.

“They came back and told us the boat had capsized but the children were okay except for three who were injured and had been rushed to hospital,” Jason said. The broken-hearted mother who is keen to get to the bottom of the matter said she hoped the owners of the boat would be brought to justice. – Daily News