28 December 2012

Zimbabwe: We Can't Afford Lose Any More Lives!


The tragic accident in Manicaland which claimed 18 precious lives on Sunday evening leaves one wondering whether people take advice on road safety seriously at all. It also seems that passengers seem to believe road traffic safety is for drivers only.

I am persuaded to think that before it happens to you, people always feel that an accident is only something that affects your neighbour. No matter how stranded you get while hitchhiking, I believe there are some situations you should just avoid and catching a ride in a haulage truck is one of them.

The reasons are plenty but there are two primary ones why I would not accapt a lift in a haulage truck: firstly, a haulage truck is not a passenger carrier so there is no insurance to cover you in the event of a tragedy, secondly, they are not designed for comfort.

Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo should be applauded for stepping in and assisting the victims but how long can we go on like this because someone else chooses to be reckless on the road and endangering not only themselves, but the lives of other productive Zimbabweans.

The Let's Go Zero team, which comprises the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Buy Zimbabwe and Mimosa Mining Company, were on the ground at a number of toll gates and bus ranks on December 23 and 24, creating awareness on the dangers of reckless behaviour on our roads.

It is important that when we are on the road whether as a driver or a passenger, we must ensure the safety of others. The responsibility is not for the driver alone but it is a shared responsibility.

After escorting a cousin who was travelling to Mutare to the Fourth Street bus terminal, I believe targeting transport operators is a critical move. A few rank marshals, conductors and drivers we saw there were mostly in the festive mood enjoying a drink or two. We ended up having to squeeze the guy into a private vehicle which seemed to be travelling to a church meeting in Mutare because the commuter omnibuses appeared unsafe. I would have hated to leave my cousin at the mercy of someone's irresponsible behaviour.

This brings me to the next point.

It is important for us as responsible citizens to be candid towards each other when on the road. Candour will save a lot of lives.

If you see anyone for any reason being careless on the road take some time to tell them straight to their face that what they are doing is irresponsible and therefore very dangerous.

I am always fighting with folks that use mobile phones while they are driving. A cellphone is a major distraction on the road whichever way you look at it. My observation has been that even a voice call steals away your focus from the road. A cellphone impairs judgment in a significant way.

The ZRP must be commended for mounting the 24-hour roadblocks, however, judging from the statistics, it seems that they have not worked effectively as a deterrent to careless behaviour.

According to media reports, as of yesterday, 628 vehicles had been impounded while 9 167 tickets had been issued to traffic offenders.

Still you find motorists saying; "mapurisa arikunetsa paroad mazuva ano (Traffic police officers are a nuisance these days)."

My question is why do we violate traffic safety rules and why do we drive unroadworthy vehicles when we all know that our actions might as well lead to life threatening situations.

Ms Rumbidzai Matinenga, Let's Go Zero publicist, says that they are concerned about the behaviour of motorists on the country's roads and that together with their strategic partners including the ZRP, Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe and others, they will not stop till statistics get to ZERO.

"Let's Go Zero" is a Mimosa Mining initiative, which seeks to reduce HIV and Aids prevalence, road carnage and work-related accidents with the ultimate goal of reaching the ZERO harm threshold.

It was launched in October this year in view of the festive season and has held a number of road shows around the country to create awareness.

Till next week . . . Let's Go Zero.

Robert Garai Muganda is the General Manager Media and Communications at Buy Zimbabwe. He can be contacted on mobile: 0772714233. Email: robert@buyzimbabwe.org.zw or Facebook: buy Zimbabwe campaign.

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