A HWANGE magistrate has acquitted a train driver accused of causing the deaths of 16 people in the 2000 Hwange train disaster, a move that could prove government wrong in it
s allegations that both the Hwange and Dete train disasters last year were caused by human error.
The National Railways engineman, Joseph Fisher, and a guard with the parastatal, Cosmas Sibanda, were on Thursday last week set free after the magistrate Vivian Ndlovu ruled that the state failed to prove its homicide case against the two.
In the accident that occurred in October 2000 dozens of passengers were seriously injured while 16 died instantly when a goods train travelling from Dete to Bulawayo collided with a passenger train from Bulawayo.
Ndlovu in her written judgement said when she went to inspect the signal systems in July the system was still not functional – two years after the accident occurred.
“The signals systems at the time of the accident were not working and when I went for inspection in loco on July 22 this year, they were still not working,” reads part of Ndlovu’s judgement on the matter.
An initial inquiry into the accident established that the fatal accident was caused by human error.
The NRZ signal systems are in shambles as only a 20-kilometre stretch on the Harare and Mutare lines is operational.
The NRZ is also facing an acute shortage of signals engineers and technicians who are making the great trek to the United Kingdom.
New revelations at the NRZ indicate that the parastatal has lost over 300 qualified technicians and engineers in the last eight months and continues to lose them as more staff leave at short notice.
The Hwange judgement contrasts sharply with government allegations that human error was the main cause of both the Dete and the Hwange train disasters.
The magistrate said the central train controller on duty failed to produce documents indicating whether Fisher was cleared or not to proceed.