Police speed traps, more penal traffic offence fines being mooted for errant public transporters

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Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona visiting survivors of the Chimanimani bus accident admitted at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital last week Thursday.

Ngoni Dapira

THE Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development is mooting the return of police speed traps and more penal fines as counter measures to reduce road carnage caused by errant public transporters, Easterntimeszim has learnt.

This was revealed last week Thursday when the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Felix Mhona visited survivors of the Chimanimani bus disaster admitted at the Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital. A hired St Charles Lwanga school bus carrying 108 passengers who were members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) that were on their way to an Easter church service in Masvingo was involved in an accident about 5km from the Jopa turn off along the Chimanimani- Chipinge road on 14 April in the evening. 36 died on the spot, one on the way to hospital and another one on admission at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital, to make it a total of 38 people who perished from the accident.

“I was really touched during this visit of survivors of the St Charles Luwanga Chimanimani bus accident. I have seen that we still have a lot of survivors still hospitalized. There are touching stories here of women who lost their husbands and children or men that lost their women and children. Whats even more sad is that they do not know what lays ahead for them,” said Minister Mhona. Government has since declared the accident a state of disaster.

Minister Mhona talking to one of the survivors encouraging him to stay strong and recover.

Minister Mhona thanked President Emmerson Mnangagwa for immediately stepping in to cater for all the medical expenses of the survivors. “The survivors were in dire need of medicine, wheel chairs, metal implants and complicated surgical operations, so I have come to see if the assistance rendered by the President was done accordingly and to encourage the survivors to stay strong as we will cater for all their needs,” he added.

Speaking about the worrisome rate of road carnage being declared state disasters after horrific accidents by public transporters, Minister Mhona said there is need for a multi-stakeholder approach to reduce road accidents especially by reckless public transport drivers. “We want to put more stern regulatory and punitive laws. We are going to sit down with our technocrats on how to do this. The President (Mnangagwa) after this Chimanimani accident said we need to reinforce police speed traps for public transporters amongst other penal measures. So I am with officials from VID (Vehicle Inspection Department), our road engineers, Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders to put our heads together about this as we shall drive to the accident scene,” he said.

The Transport Minister said there is also need to record all the accident black spots countrywide and see how best to prevent accidents from happening at the black spots. He said their technocrats from various departments under the Ministry of Transport will come up with a report and recommendations. He said re-documenting the black spots in every province and doing awareness amongst other necessary interventions is critical to reduce road accident carnage.

Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital medical superintendent Dorcas Masanga-Mutede said 22 survivors are still hospitalised out of the 26 that were transferred from Chimanimani after the accident. “We have 22 patients from the accident. Two are critically ill in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and we also have two months old infant but the baby is recovering well. Otherwise most of the transferred survivors are doing well and most should be out soon. From the 26 survivors who were transferred from Chimanimani, one died on admission, then three were discharged after getting treatment, so we are now left with the 22 admitted patients,” said the medical superintendent during the tour at the hospitalized survivors.

From Mutare the Minister and his entourage went to Chipinge to see the accident scene and also visited the other survivors admitted at Chipinge District Hospital.

On the other hand. another concern continuously being faced after road accidents by public transporters is the lack of a mandatory public passenger insurance to assist the victims with medical and funeral expenses. This was revealed in a statement last week by the Insurance Council of Zimbabwe (ICZ) that nonetheless committed $7 million in ex gratia payment towards the burial of  38 people who perished in the accident.

In its press statement ICZ said about 40% of public service vehicles in the country are not compliant with the Road Traffic Act.

“Unfortunately, the trend is that most fatal accidents that are happening are within the non-compliant category. ICZ is encouraging all public service vehicle operators including schools that have buses to ensure that they have the required insurance cover. In the event of an accident the burden would not unnecessarily fall on government, but on insurance,” read the statement.

Further stating that, “ICZ together with other stakeholders that include the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, will soon embark on awareness campaigns to educate the public on safe travel and benefits and rights of passengers with regards to mandatory motor and public passenger insurance.”

Whilst government is mooting countermeasures it however has been documented that many African countries lack resources and sophisticated technology needed to monitor and enforce traffic speed regulations in highways. Most countries, Zimbabwe included, rely on highway patrolling, a manual technique used to oversee and enforce the traffic safety compliance on the roads. The technique has over the years been considered inadequate, since police officers can be bribed and the equipment they use does not provide enough evidence to empower independent auditors to quiz why certain offenders were not ticketed. The traffic police in Zimbabwe mostly used the Doppler/Radar gun for speed traps which has a limitation of only capturing one vehicle at a time.

However, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) is on record to say the main reason for the increased road accidents in Zimbabwe is the poor enforcement of traffic regulations owing to insufficient resources, administrative issues and corruption.

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