Schoolbus crashes into herd: 13 cows dead

Nov 19 2010 VOLKSRUST. Boer Johan Uys couldn’t believe his eyes when a high-speed schoolbus filled with pupils plowed into his prized Drakensberger cattle herd  being herded at 6:45am on Friday, November 19 2010. One pupil was seriously injured to a shoulder. The crash killed 12 pregnant cows and one calf. Seven of them had to be euthanised at the scene. The bus-driver said his ‘brakes had failed’. 

Pupil injured 13 cows dead in schoolbus accident Volksrust FriNov192010 BEELD

“Fortunately the bus did not overturn otherwise many children would also have died,’ the deeply upset farmer told Buks Viljoen of Volksblad newspaper. He reported that the accident occurred only an hour before the local Mpumalanga provincial premier David Mabuza had revealed his shock-forensic report – highlighting the great many unroadworthy school buses endangering pupils and road-users in the province.

One of the very buses identified in this forensic report as transporting childeren without any legal roadworthiness certificates was this very same bus which crashed into farmer Uys’  herd barely an hour earlier. The bus was built in 1984 and is owned by the Khulamansi Trading company. Viljoen was unable to trace the female owner for comment. She lives at Malalane, he said.

Mr Uys was just walking his valuable herd of 208 prized Drakensberg cattle when the bus drove at high-speed into the animals, which were walking on the right-hand edge of the road. The herd was headed by a worker who carried a red flag to alert drivers. “I was driving right behind the herd,’ said Uys  – scion of a well-known Voortrekker family which has been breeding the Drakensberg livestock for at least 150 years…

“When the bus appeared some 300 metres ahead of the herd I saw that this was trouble. However the driver simply flashed his lights at us after the flag-man warned him by waving the red flag,’ said Uys.  The bus ran at very high speed straight into the front of the herd, driving over twelve of the pregnant cows and one calf. The value of the animals is about R115,000, he said.

The Drakensberger, first known as the Vaderland cattle, is indigenous to South Africa and was bred over several centuries. After Portuguese seafarer Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape in 1497 he briefly went ashore to acquire a black ox from the local Xhoi-San pastoral  people. He was the first European to describe the ‘excellent quality of its meat”. Nearly four hundred years later,  Boer Voortrekker families left the Cape of Good Hope to get away from British colonial rule – and travelled north with teams of those black oxen – which then were known as the  “Vaderland cattle”  (Fatherland cattle). Most of these earliest Boer voortrekkers settled along the Drakensberg range, among them the Uys family who began farming in the present-day Volksrust area.

The latter’s dedicated contribution to the improvement and maintenance of the breed’s purity was universally acknowledged, and in due course the name of the breed was changed to Uys cattle. This name remained unchanged until 1947 when the Drakensberger Cattle Breeders Society of South Africa was formed to receive immediate official recognition. By that time the black cattle had become known as Drakensbergers because of their widespread concentration in the mainly sourveld Drakensberg region, beginning at Dordrecht in the Cape and stretching east and north over a distance of more than a thousand kilometres. Today the breed has spread throughout the country, from Humansdorp in the south, through the eastern  Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and eastern Mpumalanga to Messina in the Northern Province.

About Adriana Stuijt
Retired South African-Dutch journalist formerly Sunday Times Johannesburg

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