Dozens of Mahatshula residents and passing motorists helped themselves to free cooking oil after a trailer carrying the commodity disengaged from a truck and fell by the roadside yesterday along the Bulawayo-Harare road.

The truck was coming from South Africa en-route to Zambia when the incident occurred late in the afternoon.

When a Chronicle arrived at the scene the Bulawayo Fire Brigade, police and the Environmental Management Agency were already on site. The emergency services struggled to ward off the people who were pushing and shoving to collect the liquid.

The Fire Brigade resorted to spraying the crowds with water in a bid to control them to no avail as people were determined to get free cooking oil.

The driver of the truck who declined to be identified said he was carrying 33 tonnes of the edible oil when the smaller 8-tonne trailer disengaged. He could not tell how much litres were in the trailer which fell some metres off the busy highway.

“I cannot say much because I don’t want to be in the media, but I just felt a strong push and the trailer was swinging from different directions. The trailer then disengaged and overturned by its side. I am not hurt and the rest of the truck is okay. I could not do anything to stop people from looting,” he said.

A resident, Godknows Matumbu said he was drinking beer at a nearby bottle store when he received the news and rushed to the scene.

“I don’t know what exactly transpired as I was relaxing with friends at a bottle store. I received a call from a friend telling me to rush with containers to collect cooking oil. We filled 40 litres but it was not easy due to the disorder. Cooking oil is very expensive so this will push us,” he said as he hurried back home carrying a 20-litre container.

Another man from the suburb who refused to reveal his identity said he drove to the scene after getting the “good” news.

He said he initially hesitated thinking the truck was carrying petrol, but when he got assurance that it was cooking oil he joined the crowd.

“We don’t know what happened for the trailer to be on its side but as you can see we have the cooking oil. We brought a number of containers and we have filled almost all of them. For now, I cannot say what we will do with them. What is important is that we have cooking oil. They poured water on us and we retreated for a little while and returned,” he said.

Another resident Njabuliso Maphosa said he was driving to the city centre to collect water when he saw people collecting the cooking oil.

“I stopped my car and asked what people were collecting and when they said cooking oil I put on hold the water mission and joined the crowd. I managed to fill a 20-liter container which I will take home. But I made sure that it was not petrol because with the explosions associated with petrol when such incidents happen, this would have been a disaster,” he said

Mercy Dube said she was relaxing at home when she was called by her neighbours and also rushed with containers. She said she will send some of her loot to her family in her rural home.

“We ran here with our containers after being told of what had happened. We are very happy for the oil and the fact that no one was injured. But the pushing and shoving is what I fear may cause injuries because the ground is now slippery due to the spill.

“At least we will save by not buying oil now and we also share my relatives back home,” she said.

Marvellous Gwenzi said it was tough for women as men used their muscle to push them aside. EMA Provincial Environmental Quality Officer Fredrick Maponga said they are investigating the incident.

Maponga warned members of the public to desist from collecting liquids from trucks that would have been involved in incidents as that poses danger to them. Chronicle