20 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Declare Roads National Crisis

opinion

The state of Zimbabwe's roads should be declared a national emergency!

The country has just emerged out of the bloodiest festive season ever with the death toll peaking at more than 200. A good number of the road accidents can be attributed to the state of the roads.

For such a small country, it is a great tragedy that so many people perish in a four-week period. Besides snatching away members of families who could have been sole breadwinners, the cost to the country's economy is also immense; some of the dead were very likely highly-skilled individuals whose contribution to nation building was sizeable. Although the statistical focus was on the happy season, it is obvious the death toll during the rest of the year isn't any different.

Without looking solely at the emotional side of road accidents, it is also very important to consider other negative impacts of a poor road network. The potholed roads have impacted very badly on motorists as damage to vehicles is now a constant menace.

Bad roads speed up vehicle wear and tear; often whole wheels, let alone suspension systems, have to be replaced in short periods of time. The effect on families as scarce money is used for vehicle repair instead of family upkeep is difficult to quantify but is obviously huge.

Following the collapse of our railway system, industry thrives on road transport which has become not only costly but also unreliable due to the state of the roads.

Zimbabwe is also at the epicentre of the region's transport system. This means the whole region looks up to Zimbabwe for the flawless transportation of goods. It would be a tragedy if transporters shun Zimbabwe and find alternative routes.

The tourism sector was about to trough out of its worst days and Zimbabwe's hosting of the UNWTO conference in August was the icing on the cake. But the state of the roads just might be the Achilles' heel that will thwart the country's efforts to lure back tourists.

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