MARONDERA – It was very distressing recently to see scores of people crowded on the side of a busy highway east of Harare.
Cars were stopped haphazardly everywhere, people darted across the road to gawk and on the tarmac, covered with a blanket, was a body.
This was the latest road accident victim, a sight now tragically familiar in Zimbabwe.
Every road in every part of our country is adorned with the mangled, burnt wrecks of cars demolished in accidents and every road is bloodstained from the victims lost in these unnecessary tragedies.
In less than 10 weeks-time the killing fields re-open on Zimbabwe’s roads and this year we look to the former minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, to get control of the mayhem and stop the Christmas tragedy.
Mpofu is the new minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development and controlling the nightmare on our roads must surely be his top priority.
The impatience, selfishness and reckless driving of road users have given us a very bad name and it’s getting worse all the time.
In its 2013 Crime and Safety Report on Zimbabwe, America’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (Osac) says: “Road safety remains the greatest general daily threat to the average visitor.”
Quoting the Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Council, Osac says there are 45-50 road accidents in Harare every day with a countrywide statistic of 20 000 accidents per year.
Osac gives a grim analysis of the high statistics of our road accidents and incidents.
These include corruption by traffic police, an acceptance of corrupt police by the public and non functioning traffic lights and street lighting. To Zimbabwe’s shame, Osac says: “It is estimated that close to half of drivers have ‘bought’ licences using the black market.”
This issue of “bought” driving licences is a matter that many journalists have written about repeatedly for the last four years but no one in authority does anything to stop it and so the practice continues unabated causing more and more lives to be lost.
The Traffic Safety Council has taken to bombarding cellphone subscribers with text messages over public holidays.
Messages telling us to reduce speed, overtake safely and not to drink and drive are a start but these warnings aren’t anywhere near enough to stop the road massacre, it’s going to take much more.
Some of the statistics on the not very user-friendly Traffic Safety Council website gives some interesting insights.
The highest number of accidents are not in the middle of the night as we would expect, but occur between twelve midday and six in the evening. The main cause of accidents, 100 percent more than any other reason, is human error.
The concentration of accidents according to age is in the 26 to 34-year old age group, double that of drivers under 25 and triple that of drivers over 42.
Mpofu won’t have to go far to see for himself how bad the situation has become on the roads.
Rush hours in towns and cities are mayhem. Mayhem at non functioning traffic lights during power cuts.
Blind overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic at all road work stop/go sections.
Speeding, overloading, and huge trucks carrying scores of people crammed in like sardines -— All tragedies waiting to happen.
The list goes on and on. While politicians have been obsessed with fighting for power and positions this last four years, ordinary Zimbabweans have been risking their lives every time they venture onto the roads.
Corrupt traffic police, corrupt driving schools, corrupt driving examiners; will they be the cause of death of you or your loved one this Christmas?