Walter Nyamukondiwa in MAKUTI
ROAD traffic accidents are prejudicing the country of three percent of its Gross Domestic Product through human injuries, deaths and property losses.

The loss from the accidents amounts to about $400 million a year.

This comes as 1 041 people have died in road accidents between January and June this year, compared to 830 people during the same period last year.

This represents a 12,5 percent increase in road carnage. This also comes as Government has secured $21 million under a Japanese government special grant to widen and reconstruct a dangerous 15-kilometre stretch between Makuti and Chirundu.

The stretch is commonly known as Hell’s Gate or Wafa Wafa, owing to sharp curves and steep gradient, which result in drivers, especially those of haulage trucks, failing to safely negotiate them, resulting in accidents.

Speaking at the handover of an ambulance at Makuti Clinic, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joram Gumbo said more needs to be done to mitigate the impact of road accidents.

“Zimbabwe is estimated to be losing about $406 million every year due to road traffic accidents,” he said.

“This is almost three percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is estimated at $14 billion. It is sad to note that from January to June 2018, Zimbabwe has lost 1 041 people due to road traffic accidents, up from 830 people killed during the same period last year.”

Minister Gumbo said progress to widen and reconstruct the Wafa Wafa stretch was being stalled by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), which was taking too long to process an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project. He said work should have already commenced, but bemoaned the bureaucratic red tape when Government, under the new dispensation, was emphasising on ease of doing business.

“I am happy to report that the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, recently received a grant of US$20 935 524 from the Japanese government for the upgrade and realignment of the 6,5 kilometres of the 13,6km Makuti-Hells’ Gate Road section,” he said.

A widened two-lane single carriageway with a third ascending and passing lane, he said, would help reduce accidents in the area.

“Even with the money now secured, we are unable to proceed because EMA is not treating the matter with the agency it deserves because of the daily occurrence of accidents and resultant loss of life,” said Minister Gumbo.

“The President is saying things have changed and Government departments should be responsive.”

Minister Gumbo said it was regrettable that accidents continued to occur despite efforts to reduce them, including road safety awareness programmes.

Turning to the ambulance, which was donated by the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe to Makuti Clinic, Dr Gumbo said it was a post-crash management response which would help save lives.

The ambulance was refurbished to the tune of $38 000 after it had broken down several months ago, resulting in loss of life as mostly accident victims failed to get assistance during the crucial hour within a crash.

“A place like Makuti needs to have a functional ambulance and police utility vehicle owing to the high incidence of accidents along the stretch to Chirundu,” he said.

Chief Chundu welcomed the gesture, saying daily occurrences of accidents were a cause for concern and having an ambulance would help reduce deaths.

He expressed gratitude to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe for the gesture, saying the ambulance should be stationed at Makuti after it was previously taken to Karoi and Chinhoyi where it was grounded.

“We want that whatever is donated to an area should serve the identified community because the death rate here is very high,” said Chief Chundu.

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