The Sunday News
Leroy Dzenga / Wallace Ruzvidzo, Harare Bureau
CHRISTMAS Day on the internet ordinarily means waking up to images of plates full of food as families celebrate.
It is when families outdo each other in sharing colourful cuisines, which punctuate the festivities of the day.
However, in Zimbabwe, this year had a difference.
Pictures of a bruised Sirizani Butau, a truck driver from Kadoma were trending all day.
He was among the first responders at the fatal accident which happened 20 kilometres outside Mutare along the Mutare-Harare highway.
The death toll has reached five, and more than 20 are currently admitted to hospital for varying injuries.
Among those being nursed is Butau, a man who was not in the Beta bus, nor was he aboard the haulage truck it collided with.
He was driving another truck when he identified one of the vehicles which had been involved in the fatal crash.
Little did he know he was going to spend his Christmas in hospital, as a result of his big heart.
“The truck that was involved in the accident was being driven by my colleague and friend.
So I rushed and found him still alive, so I tried to save him because I knew that with time the petrol would catch fire so when I was trying to retrieve him that is when it caught fire,” Butau said.
While some would be consumed by the digital era instinct to whip out a phone and record videos or pictures of the moment, he chose to look death in the eye.
He rescued eight people from an impending fire, suffering third degree burns in the process.
His images have since gone viral on Twitter, with people celebrating him.
Several accounts have shared his story, rallying on people to make mobile money donations as the people’s way of thanking him for his heroics.
Some notable figures who have extended their hands include comedienne Madam Boss, who pledged US$500 towards Butau and his family.
Corporates too have entered the fray, local breadmaker TN Baker has pledged a US$1 000 donation.
Local eatery Hotplate Grill has donated meals to cover the duration of his hospital stay.
Despite his face dominating the Twitter algorithm on Christmas Day, Butau said his intervention was not in pursuit of glory.
“I was not doing it in pursuit of any glory or praise.
If there are people who may want to extend donations, they can do so, but I am not making any demands,” Butau told a local online publication.
Witnesses said he tried to open the door, in which the tanker driver was trapped.
As Butau struggled to open the door, the fire kept growing prompting him to seek a quicker solution than just his bare hands.
As he tried to find tools to open the door, the truck burst into a ball of fire and the colleague he was trying to rescue died.
When our Harare Bureau phoned Butau last night, he told the publication that the doctor was attending to him, saying he would only be able to take the call after 30 minutes.
After calling him again, a male figure who did not identify himself, answered the phone saying Butau’s wounds were being dressed by nurses.
“He is currently being dressed, there is a lot of work being done. Call maybe after an hour or two,” he said, communicating the extent of his injuries.
There is a sense of community in the truck driving world, with drivers referring to each other as Mashofe – a derivative from the English word chauffeur.
It was again the spirit of Mashofe, who have an unwritten pact to assist each other, which prevailed as Butau opted to endure pain to save lives.
His story is a reminder that not all heroes wear caps, sometimes they emerge behind the steering wheel of a haulage truck, wearing a pair of shorts and a vest.
In a statement on the accident yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said:
“The driver of a Beta Bus Company’s Youtong was travelling towards Mutare, with 63 passengers on board and on approaching the 242km peg it is claimed that the driver was avoiding a suspected drunk pedestrian resulting in the bus swerving onto the lane of oncoming traffic.
“As a result, the bus collided with a Freightliner fuel tanker which was travelling in the opposite direction, with one passenger on board.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said they will reveal the names of the victims who died once they inform their relatives.
“Three people died on the spot including the driver of the fuel tanker and his passenger while two others died upon admission to Victoria Chitepo Hospital.
The bodies of the victims were ferried to Victoria Chitepo Hospital, while 60 people who were injured were admitted to the same hospital,” he said.