SADC countries join hands to compat road carnage

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Tadious Manyepo
Harare - The death of five  children in a road crash in South Africa early this week made some sad reading.
That all the five in that Johannesburg-bound Toyota Quantum were children visiting their parents this school holiday was as spine-chilling as it was horrific.
The Toyota Quantum driver, Xolani Dube, failed to observe some basic road principles as he attempted to overtake a cargo truck before a curve.
Despite repeated signals from the truck driver not to, Dube had none of that and as he had just encroached the opposite lane, an oncoming haulage vehicle, in cruise speed appeared.
Panicky, he swerved back in an attempt to get back to his lane but sideswiped the cargo truck and in an instant, five innocent souls perished.
One of those killed in the accident, Tinashe Muranganwa (11), was an orphan visiting South Africa for the first time where his good uncle had invited him to spent the holidays.
"What is most horrific about Tinashe is the fact that he was orphaned by a road accident as well. Both his parents died in an accident in May this year when they were on their way to visit him at a boarding primary school he was enrolled at," laments, Tinashe's maternal grandmother, Rodah Chiduku.
"He had since been withdrawn from the boarding facility he was attending after the death of his parents. Noone could afford the school fees at an affluent institution he was attending, let alone the  requirements.
"So he had been taken under the wings of his uncle who works in South Africa while his wife looks after the children in Zimbabwe.
"Tapiwa and the uncle's daughter, Melin (13), had been invited for the holidays. Unfortunately they both perished in that accident."
Accidents have wreaked havoc in Southern Africa, killing the economically active group (15-49years) mostly.
This is one of the reasons why this region continues to lag behind in terms of development due to the disturbance in demographics.
The stance by the SADC countries to work together this festive season in an effort to combat road carnage is laudable and underlines the region's commitment to halve road deaths by 2020 as outlined in the Global Road Action which most SADC countries are signatories to.
Traffic Safety of Zimbabwe managing director, Obio Chinyere, confirmed that they had engaged their counterparts in the region who committed to work hand in glove to minimise accidents this festive season.
"There are so many SADC citizens living in neighbouring countries within the bloc. They will obviously be travelling back to their respective countries this holiday," said Chinyere.
"As a region, which prioritises road safety, we saw it fit to join hands in our campaign efforts to minimise carnage. Our teams will be everywhere in the region, preaching road safety.
"Countries like Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique have already come on board."
He said by the end of next year, road signage and driver training syllabi in the region would have been harmonised for smooth flowing of traffic with minimal accident chances in the bloc.
Zimbabwe's driver's manual already has SADC signage and training is heading towards that.
There is also need for SADC to set minimum standards for homologation of vehicles to pass roadworthy tests.
"Most accidents in Zimbabwe, and indeed in Southern Africa, are caused by unroadworthy vehicles," said Zimbabwe Transport Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza.
"On average, five people die while 38 are injured in road crashes in Zimbabwe daily. This is almost the average in every SADC country. It is so sad to say the least. There are conditions that a vehicle must meet before it is granted the right to enter our roads."
He highlighted that some drivers using fake licences should be nabbed.
"There is definitely urgent need for us as a region to strengthen corporation in the area of road safety. Law enforcement agents have to be empowered so that they can easily identify and tell whether a drivers' licence is fake or genuine regardless of the country of origin.
"This is one of the reasons why people's lives are being lost on the road. We have fake drivers causing confusion and pandemonium on the roads simply because they would be using foreign licences which can be fake."
Incompetent driving isn't always about having unlicensed drivers on the roads but can be caused by individual backgrounds.
It would be prudent to conduct thorough background checks and even engaging psychologists to help prospective drivers before they get licenced.
TSCZ spokesperson Tatenda Chinoda agrees.
"Of course, that will be prudent. Some of the accidents recorded in the Zimbabwe and beyond are down to driver behaviour rather than incompetence,"he said.
"There are some people who are generally suicidal and mischievous. That habit can visit them while behind the wheel and end up ii unnecessary loss of lives. Obviously there will need for vetting and counselling before issuing them with licences in future. It has to be considered."
Night driving, drugs, animals, road conditions, among other things, have been blamed for the high rate of accidents in the region and already efforts are being made to fence off roads in some parts of the region and putting speed humps before curves. 

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