Govt moots road accident fund

Freeman Razemba Senior Reporter
The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development has proposed the setting up of a fund to assist road accident victims and their families, as it emerged that an accident occurs every 15 minutes and five people are killed daily on the country’s roads. The proposal has already been submitted to Cabinet for consideration.

The initiative, to be known as the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, comes at a time when at least 1 700 people die in road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe annually, while 30 000 are injured.

The establishment of the fund is in line with the United Nations Decade of Road Safety action plan.

Speaking at a consultative meeting in Harare recently, Transport and Infrastructural Development deputy minister Engineer Michel Madanha said Zimbabwe was one the few Sadc countries yet to establish such a fund.

“On this day, I have invited men and women from both the private and public sectors for the purposes of seeking their views, ideas and wise counsel on the need and modalities of establishing this fund of which Zimbabwe is one of the few Sadc countries that do not have it operational,” he said.

The workshop came a few hours after 43 people were killed, while several others were injured when a bus veered off the road and hit a tree on Wednesday evening, along the Harare-Chirundu Highway.

Eng Madanha said it was important to consult widely before introducing the accident fund.

“It is within the confinements of our national Constitution and the general principles of good democratic governance that the Government and its agencies consult the people before setting up such institutions,” he said.

“So, please be informed from the onset that your suggestions, criticisms and wise counsel are most welcome in this forum and will be taken on board as we move on what Government views as a noble cause.”

Eng Madanha said statistics showed that a road accident occurs in Zimbabwe every 15 minutes and that five people were being killed daily.

“On average we have about 1 700 fatalities and over 30 000 people injured every year,” he said.

“These statistics, though frightening, must always be remembered so that we come up with a viable and sustainable fund which takes into consideration our country’s current economic realities.”

Eng Madanha said Government noted with concern challenges that arise in the post-crash phase.

These include delays in securing rescue ambulance services and challenges related to getting the injured admitted to hospital.

Eng Madanha said it should be appreciated that emergency medical service organisations needed to recover costs for them to remain operational.

“However, a lot of people involved in accidents may not have medical insurance,” he said.

“It is, therefore, possible that there may be hesitation by the emergency rescue service providers and medical fraternity in responding to accidents as fast as they should, as they grapple with the question of how such services will be paid for.

“There is need to receive medical attention as quickly as possible.

“If there is anything life-threatening, it must be dealt with during the first one hour.

“As Government, we believe that if a mechanism which removes any sense of hesitation from the medical fraternity to respond to accidents is put in place, we would save more lives.”

Eng Madanha said assuming that the national response to proposed fund was positive, they would then begin drafting a legal framework.

It is Government’s intention to operationalise the fund by next year.

Staff from the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe have since attended regional conferences on the subject to learn from the experiences of their regional counterparts.

Representatives of road accident funds from Botswana and South Africa were invited to share their experiences with Zimbabwe at the consultative meeting.

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  • Jdam540i

    The establishment of the Road Accident Fund is indeed the beginning of a process that should see the nation managing the inevitable consequences of the prevalent carnage on our roads. However, I am not convinced, at the rate fatal accidents are occurring on our roads, and at huge cost to lives and livelihood for those who remain, that the Road Accident Fund will come anywhere near sufficient in dealing with the aftermaths of such carnage on our roads.

    We are not, as a nation going to wait until the Beitbridge – Harare-Chirundu dualisation project to be completed before we see the assumed return to lowering of fatalities on this stretch of road, are we? At the rate people are dying, and based on issues around illegal contraband that is finding its way into the country via these forced night trips, is it not an urgent matter that requires parliament to convene and look at legislation , if existing provisions in the road policing regime are inadequate, to see to it that action is taken without further loss of life? What action, I believe fellow countrymen may ask?

    Increased policing on the road through stricter management of long-trip bus timetables with punitive spot fines for breach, mandatory checks by police against overloading and related temptation to carry contraband, stricter road-worthiness tests on all automotive vehicles, among other slew of interventions. Again, unless someone lives on Mars and they are so divorced even from news coming from our country – there will always be the ugly head of who polices the police, against a background where there are plenty of citations of police being compromised by kickbacks even on routes plied by urban commuter omnibuses?

    It is time we act on corruption in the police and allow for whistle-blowers to have state protection where such evidence becomes available before courts. Its not unusual , as for commuter omnibuses in urban areas, to see an evidently defective vehicle getting away with a whole host of malfunctioning systems – some physically evident and some not so but surely detectable if we had a vehicle roadworthiness inspectorate that is worth its name. Just the sight of black or deep blue smoke on any automotive vehicle on the road should be good enough an invite for police attention, even without pre-existing knowledge of whether the vehicle a certificate of fitness or not.

    Even where the vehicle driver or his assistant have produced whatever evidence of road-fitness for the vehicle, we need a system that tracks back to establish where the service was done. This brings in additional urgent need to our transport and motoring management system. The Ministry of Transport needs a real-time Automatic-Number Plate Recognition System (ANPRA) linked to the main database (s) for vehicle recognition. That system links all approved Vehicle repair and maintenance outlets that are judiciously overseen for compliance by the Ministry of Transport to ensure they perform standardised quality work when repairing and performing service on vehicles. Punitive measures that include withdrawal of practicing licences where sub-standard work has been proven.

    In other words, dualisation of our roads , where needed , is not going to reduce carnage and loss of life. The whole transport management philosophy must change in a direction that starts with a heavy-handedness not seen before. Drivers on our roads are generally not very considerate people at best, and very reckless in extreme. We cannot , and should not leave the lives of innocent people so glaringly exposed as evidenced by the fact that in this Makuti disaster passengers pleaded several times with driver against speeding and all such pleading fell on deaf and very obstinate ears!!!. Enough is enough Zimbabwe. Its time we make sure those who do not see the glaring case for good citizenship be made to think twice. We cannot go as usual.