Namibia: Outdated Transport Law Creates Chaos Over Easter

Chaos ensued on the roads this past Easter weekend due to a 44-year-old law prohibiting seven-seater vehicles from operating.

Passengers at the B1 Service Station and all over the country were left stranded or sent back to Windhoek as a result.

The Ministry of Works and Transport is still enforcing the Road Transportation Act 74 of 1977 - despite the transport sector having seen some transformation.

The act regulates road and passenger transport and the relevant permits required for this.

Ministry spokesperson Julius Ngweda says laws that have not been replaced since independence are still valid and binding until they are repealed or replaced.

"If by 21 March 1990 we repealed all the laws we would be in a vacuum," he says.

He acknowledges that the transport sector has evolved and that the presiding law and others are outdated, but said they are being repealed and replaced gradually.

Until then, all citizens are bound to follow these laws, he says.

"We have realised we have to replace [some laws] totally. We proposed a bill to replace the 1977 law seven years ago. But it takes consultation to amend the law. We have been to all 14 regions to consult," Ngweda says.

The proposal to replace the 1977 act is currently with legal drafters.

Road transporters with permits to operate within a certain area are allowed to travel anywhere while the sector awaits the enactment of the bill.

New permits are, however, not issued any more.

Ngweda says the proposed bill would decentralise power between two types of boards in all regions: one for the issuing of permits, and a review board for appealing rejected applications.

The bill would also provide clarity on safety concerns regarding sedans and seven-seater vehicles.

ROAD CHARGES DILEMMA

The ministry has been accused of preferential treatment, since road fees for buses are based on weight, but seven-seaters are not paying anything towards road maintenance.

According to the current law, only vehicles with a weight of more than 3 500 kg are required to pay road charges, due to the potential damage it can cause to roads.

Frequent road users, such as seven-seater vehicles, are becoming more preferred due to their convenience.

Ngweda refutes suggestions that the ministry is protecting buses.

He, however, agrees hat big buses contribute significantly by paying road fees.

They also contribute more towards employment opportunities as opposed to seven-seaters.

Once legal drafting is done, the bill would be forwarded to the attorney general, and then to the parliament for deliberation, after which the president needs to approve it by signing the legislation.

"Hopefully it would not go to the second session of parliament. We want it done this year," Ngweda says.

Once enacted, the law would be in line with current transportation market dynamics and emerging trends.

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