EDITORIAL COMMENT: Curbing road carnage everyone’s duty
ZIMBABWEANS yesterday woke up to yet another report of a horrific traffic accident along the Harare-Beitbridge highway in which at least 18 people lost their lives. This is becoming routine, yet it shouldn’t and should never be. While there is a plethora of causes of these fatal accidents, let’s not even begin to apologise about the preponderance of the human factor. That is the starting point.
It seems that Zimbabweans in general and Government in particular are not keen to enforce safe driving habits. We all seem inured to deaths on our roads and we take every road fatality in our stride.
There is no emotional outburst by people to say this must end, enough is enough. It is as if the nation simply says it’s a problem for those directly affected.
For their part, time and again the police make platitudes about the cause of the accident being investigated. Like in cases of domestic violence, once the cause is established, the police issue a soporific statement advising drivers to exercise caution on the roads. It doesn’t look as if the numerous roadblocks on our highways are benefiting the people. These accidents occur day and night.
Second, it looks like there is no enforcement of road traffic speed, the suitability of drivers, and the roadworthiness of the vehicles.
The frequency of the accidents on our roads is just shocking, so scandalous as to call for an official inquiry. We cannot continue this business as usual attitude.
Which takes us to a hot debate which has been going on lately concerning the issue of toll fee increases.
There is no doubt that the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge highway is badly in need of repair. The ostensible reason for the increase in toll fees was to raise money to fund these projects to make our roads safer. It was, however, shocking how the debate was turned upside down. Anybody who has driven along the highway from Plumtree through Bulawayo to Mutare should acknowledge the improvement in the condition of the road.
People who were canvassed for opinion on the tollgate fee claimed money which had been collected in the past since the tollgates were launched had been misused.
It didn’t matter that there was no evidence for these wild claims, although the need for transparency in the use of public funds cannot be overemphasised.
But it’s self-defeating for people to then argue that Government should repair or upgrade the road network first and then increase the tollgate fees.
It is no secret that huge resources are required to carry out such infrastructural projects. This is infrastructure which Zimbabwe badly needs to improve traffic movement and safety.
It is our vehicles which are damaged when we drive on bad roads. It means high maintenance costs for very low mileage.
It is, therefore, irresponsible for people to imagine that such infrastructural development can be funded entirely from foreign investment and the overblown revenues from diamonds. It’s time Zimbabweans took responsibility for their own destiny and stop overplaying their political differences.
Zim-Asset presents a broad roadmap on what needs to be done and every Zimbabwean needs to find their space to make a difference.
That means we all have to make a sacrifice to build the Zimbabwe we all want to live in. True, let’s demand accountability from Government. But that also means we must be ready to contribute where money is required to improve the state of our roads so that as a country we don’t continue to lose human life.
Don’t forget that tomorrow it could be you or a close relative.