Zimbabwe, SA intensify road safety campaign

By Lazarus Sauti

Harare – Road safety remains a major concern for most countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Every day, many people in the region are injured and/or killed in road traffic accidents, a fact supported by data from the African Development Bank (AfDB), which states that road traffic accidents constitute 25 percent of all injury-related deaths in Africa. Data from the African Development Bank also vindicates the idea that roads are dangerous in much of Africa.

Kenya, for instance, loses at least 3 000 people every year due to road accidents; in Tanzania it is more than 3 600 while Nigeria’s numbers are up to 15 000 every year.

Reports also suggest that at least five people are killed per week between roads in Zimbabwe and South Africa, making roads more dangerous than battlefields in South Sudan, Somalia as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“It is said that we continue losing lives between roads in Zimbabwe and South Africa, where at least five people are killed per week,” says Proctor Utete of the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ).

He also says the worst affected victims are those people travelling in public transport vehicles.

A large number of these accidents are attributed to potentially avoidable human errors such as reckless driving, speeding, inattentive driving as well as driving under the influence of alcohol, and driving when feeling tired.

“Most accidents along major highways in the region are a result of speeding, especially on straight stretches, overtaking errors, as well as non-compliance with road traffic regulations by most motorists,” asserts Utete, who is the TSCZ’s director for Marketing and Operations. Sharing the same sentiments, Elphas Mameja of South Africa’s Cross Border Road Traffic Agency, adds that accidents along the N1, a national road which links South Africa, Zimbabwe and other regional countries, are a result of overtaking errors, stray animals and ignorance.

Lack of respect, says Brian Gwezere (30) from Mufakose, is to blame.

“Motorists have no respect for pedestrians; at the same time, pedestrians have little respect for motorists,” he adds.

Zimbabwe and South Africa, however, embarked on a joint road safety awareness programme to reduce road accidents on major highways that link the two countries. The campaign, coordinated by the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, together with its partners, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Traffic, Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID), Nyaradzo Group, National Blood Services Zimbabwe (NBSZ), as well as the South Africa’s Cross-Border Road Traffic Agency (C-BRTA), and the South Africa’s Road Accident Fund (RAF), aims to raise awareness on road traffic accidents as well as provide information through educational messages on road safety.

“We opted to carry out the road safety campaign between Beitbridge and Musina where volumes of vehicles and human traffic are high,” says Utete, adding, “At least 170 000 people, 2 100 buses, 25 000 private cars and 15 000 trucks pass through Beitbridge and Musina every month.”

Mameja adds that saving lives is the purpose-in-life of the road safety programme and therefore urges regional countries to join hands and promote road safety – a cheap and effective insurance policy – in southern Africa.

“South Africa, Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries like Botswana, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia need to join hands in addressing issues of road accidents,” he says.

To solve the nagging problem of stray animals, as well as reduce road carnage in Beitbridge, a group of veterinarians in Zimbabwe also designed simple and inexpensive donkey reflectors, in which collars made of reflective yellow tape should help motorists to avoid hitting donkeys, especially at night.

Mel Hood of the Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ), a trust organisation dedicated to improving animal welfare in the country, estimates that there are at least 10 accidents involving donkeys within Beitbridge per month – and “probably way higher than that” on roads leading into the town.

Last year, 12 people were killed, while 44 others were injured when an MB Transport bus collided head-on with a haulage truck 45km outside Beitbridge town.

The police officer in charge of crime in Beitbridge District, Assistant Commissioner Bobby Murwira, said the bus hit a donkey and swerved to the side of an on-coming truck resulting in a head-on collision that killed 10 people on the spot.

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