Fatal bus crash shakes politicians and the Church

New Apostolic Christians far beyond Zambia’s borders are reacting with dismay and sadness to a fatal road accident that has killed 24 people, most of them women, who were on their way to a church event.

Sisters’ Fellowship is the name of the meetings that New Apostolic women in Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe regularly come together for to bring important issues forward as well as the Church. Besides enjoying time together, there are activities to train women in health education, entrepreneurial skills, matters of faith, and to develop and support charity projects. Fundraising campaigns are a standard feature, the proceeds of which go towards charity. But some of the money also goes toward church construction. In addition to a central annual meeting, there are also regional fellowships.

On 13 May 2023, a bus carrying 35 passengers was on its way to such a meeting in southern Zambia. The group had left Chongwe District and was headed to Siamatika, about 200 kilometres to the south. By the time they reached Kapiringozi at about 6 a.m. they were more than half way there. Then, according to the police report, the driver lost control of the Mitsubishi bus for unspecified reasons.

Killed instantly

The bus hit the truck in front of it, swerved off the road, overturned onto its roof, and slid down an embankment. Twenty-five passengers died at the scene of the accident—all but one were female passengers. Some had been ejected from the vehicle.

Eleven other passengers, including the driver, suffered injuries—some of them serious. Among the survivors was a six-month-old boy, Wise Kamanga, and his mother. The injured were taken to two hospitals, one being the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka, but all have since been transferred to the UTH in Lusaka. This is also where autopsies were performed on the dead and where the bodies were laid out.

Support for the bereaved

Meanwhile, the Sister’s Fellowship in Siamatika had been interrupted and then cancelled. Those sisters who were still in the process of arriving went straight home again. Mourners gathered in our church building in Chiyabale in Chongwe district.

The Church leadership reacted immediately and promised spiritual and material support to the victims and their families. District Apostle Soko offered his condolences to the bereaved families and wished the injured a speedy recovery. The New Apostolic Church in Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe called on all its members to pray that God would bring comfort and strength to the bereaved families.

Thousands attend funeral

It is estimated that about 8,000 to 10,000 people attended the funeral on 16 May 2023. The burial was preceded by a funeral service, which District Apostle Kububa Soko based on Psalm 90: 12: “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Numbering our days, the District Apostle said, is an image of wisdom, namely realising that as human beings we will one day have to leave this earth. It is therefore important that we make wise decisions today. This is especially true when it comes to the goal of our faith and striving for eternal fellowship with Jesus Christ. This includes believing in Him, taking Him as our example, and serving the Lord—just as the late sisters had done.

Many are touched

It was not only the many people who attended the funeral, but also official statements that showed how much public attention the accident attracted. For example, the Zambian president expressed shock and sadness at the news. He offered his condolences to the bereaved.

Chief Government Spokesperson Chushi Kasanda wrote: “The accident has robbed the nation of citizens who were providing a great service not only to their families, but to the church and the nation at large.”

The news quickly spread to church members all over the world via social media. Brothers and sisters from America, Europe, and Asia shared the information and expressed their dismay, sadness, and compassion.

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Andreas Rother
Congregational life