Zimbabwe’s wheels of death

Second-hand tyres are found in abundance along Lytton Road in Harare

Second-hand tyres are found in abundance along Lytton Road in Harare

Sydney Kawadza Senior Features Writer
Death, that ugly scar overlaying Zimbabwe’s emotional topography, has once again visited the nation leaving many families devastated. Death, as writer Peter Godwin would note, is less a scar and more a sore that even after so many times still suppurates.

Last week on Thursday, 32 people died in a road traffic accident involving a bus and a commuter omnibus near Kwekwe, along the Harare-Bulawayo Highway.

The accident was declared a national disaster.

It has emerged that the accident was due to a tyre burst.

This is a disturbing trend amid reports that accidents caused by tyre bursts have claimed 77 lives since November 1, 2015.

ZRP national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, in expressing concern over these accidents, said tyre bursts accounted for 46 deaths during the period in review.

The accidents also injured 338 people.

While reports indicate various reasons for the tyre bursts, authorities have blamed the influx of second-hand tyres for contributing to the carnage.

In a snap survey in Harare’s western suburbs, it was established that second hand tyre trade has become a booming industry in Zimbabwe amid a sea of ignorance on the associated consequences.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity, a second-hand tyre trader in Kuwadzana 1 revealed that South Africa was the main source, mainly through truck drivers.

“We don’t know the effects but what is good is to get a quality second hand tyre which is cheaper but can last the distance.

“Most of the tyres are delivered by truck drivers and we buy them in bulk for re-sale.”

He buys the tyres from as little as $15 depending on the quality.

“What we are concerned with is the profit because whatever I pay at wholesale, I add $5 as profit,” he said.

According to the second-hand tyre traders in Kuwadzana, Highfield, Mufakose, Budiriro and other western suburbs, the second-hand tyres are found in abundance along Lytton Road in the industrial areas.

“Word circulates every time there is a delivery. It does not matter whether they are smuggled into Zimbabwe or not but we make good money out of the trade,” said another tyre trader at Machipisa, Highfield.

However, the increase in accidents due to tyre bursts has caused an uproar.

Stakeholders attending a Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe meeting early this year raised concern over the influx of second-hand tyres.

Standards Association of Zimbabwe director general Dr Eve Gadzikwa confirmed increased calls for the development of a standard for second-hand tyres.

She, however, said the issue needed Government clarification.

“There are three kind of tyres, namely, new, second-hand and re-traded, and Statutory Instrument 129/15 makes reference to SAZ standards in respect of tyres.

“In Zimbabwe at the moment, the issue of second-hand tyres still needs to be clarified.

“We received a request to develop a standard for second-hand tyres from our stakeholders and we are also aware of media reports regarding efforts by the Traffic Safecty Council of Zimbabwe and other private tyre manufacturers to lobby Government to ban importation of second-hand tyres.”

The lobby is premised on the blame apportioned to tyre bursts for most fatal accidents in Zimbabwe.

Stakeholders are also wary of the threat posed by second-hand tyres to local manufacturers in accordance to the World Trade Organisation/Technical Barriers to Trade principles of standard development.

“The standards require stakeholder involvement, consensus and transparency and while they are voluntary, we recognise that standards must not conflict with Government policy.

“In this vein, SAZ is waiting for an official response from the Ministry of Industry and Trade regarding the issue of second-hand tyres and we will be guided to accept or reject the proposal to develop the standard,” Dr Gadzikwa said.

Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe spokesperson Mr Ernest Muchena confirmed concerns raised by stakeholders in the transport industry.

“There has been a call to ban second-hand tyres in Zimbabwe but that is a matter for Government through the Ministry of Industry and Trade whom I believe are seized with the issue,” he said.

Mr Muchena however said motorists should thoroughly inspect the tyres they buy especially from outside Zimbabwe.

“In some countries, motorists use seasonal tyres but in Southern Africa we use tyres that are heat resistant, can withstand heat exceeding 40 Degrees Celsius.

“However, when a motorist fits tyres that are suitable for cold weather conditions this can lead to disastrous consequences such as tyre bursts,” he said.

Mr Muchena urged motorist to take heed of the law governing tyres.

“The law says motorists should fit tyres of the same size, type and construction on the same Axel while making sure that there are of the same height.

“Public service and heavy vehicles must not fit retreaded tyres on the front axle. The will of the law is to make sure that the motorist does not get a tyre burst.”

He said tyres on any vehicles must not show cords, bulges or lumps and the police should also check for such deformities.

“The law also requires that the tyres must be inflated according to the recommendations of the manufacturers,” Mr Muchena said.

In the advent of imported vehicles, Mr Muchena urged motorists to be wary of their tyres’ lifespan.

“It is advisable for motorists to visit reputable car or tyre dealers for the appropriate and suitable tyres,” he said.

Snr Asst Comm Charamba also weighed in urging drivers not to use worn out tyres.

“Drivers should balance wheel pressure on the tyres before embarking on a journey and avoid overloading as it exerts pressure on tyres,” she said.

She called on drivers to avoid excessive speeds as tyre bursts that occur at high speeds raise the number of fatalities.

“Check expiry date of tyres before purchase and avoid second-hand tyres especially on public service vehicles.”

Zimbabwe has been battling an upsurge of road traffic accidents amid calls on drivers to exercise caution ahead of the Easter Holidays in a fortnight’s time.

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