MAIN opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change legislator Prosper Mutseyami has taken Transport minister Felix Mhona to task over the government’s plan to reduce road traffic accidents.
The tough-talking Dangamvura legislator challenged Mhona to come clean during a question-and-answer session in Parliament amid indications that the ministry is incapacitated.
Road accidents, largely blamed on human error and the country’s dilapidated roads, have been on the rise ahead of the festive season.
A fortnight ago, 22 people were killed when an overloaded Toyota Quantum had a head-on collision with a DAF truck 17km out of Bulawayo on Gwanda Road.
The accident raised public outrage after pictures emerged on social media showing the bodies of the deceased bundled into an open truck. The bodies were not in body bags, demonstrating the incapacitation of the national police.
This week, in a ministerial statement, Mhona said the government is devising several strategies, including the setting up of an accident fund, to minimise the suffering of accident victims.
“May I take this opportunity to inform the House that the creation of a Road Accident Fund is now at an advanced stage to minimise suffering by victims and survivors of accidents and improve our post-crash response. Work is now in progress on the legal and institutional framework to manage this fund whose details will be availed in due course,” Mhona said.
However, in response, Mutseyami said Mhona’s statement failed to address key pressing issues affecting the transport sector.
“Speaker, for clarity’s sake to the Honourable Minister, what measures are you putting in place to address the challenges that we have, especially along the major highways? Let me give as an example, the major highway I usually travel along is Mutare to Harare highway. You find that most of the sign-posts which are meant to be in place are not there. In some cases, this results in accidents. What investments are you putting in place so that the issue of sign-posts is addressed, especially on these major highways?” Mutseyami asked.
“The other thing, Honourable Minister, you find that traditionally, especially along the major highways, we used to have fences that would manage the stray cattle and other stray animals. Nowadays, we no longer have the fence on most of these highways. What measures are you putting in place so that we address this challenge because it goes a long way in terms of curbing accidents?”
“Last but not least, in your presentation, I did not get the real response regarding the bags for the victims of accidents for transportation; they are being loaded into trucks without being covered whilst we should respect the dead people.
“I did not hear the explanation on that one as to what measures you are putting in place so that you invest in [body] bags for the police stations or those who will be coming to attend the accidents so that they will be well equipped in terms of those bags.”
Earlier this year, Mutseyami also demanded answers on the government’s failure to rehabilitate the Mutare-Mozambique highway, 20 years after the legislature raised concern over the poor state of roads which is hampering regional trade.
“We have a serious problem with regard to a national road which links Mozambique, Zimbabwe via Mutare. This national road has a high flow of traffic, especially heavy trucks. It is a busy road and these trucks link Zimbabwe, Zambia, DRC and in other cases, they link Botswana,” said Mutseyami.
“The problem we have is that it was put to the attention of the minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development some time in 1995. It is the Herbert Chitepo Road; part of the road links Mutare and part of the Green Market. There is a bridge there and that bridge links the flyover and the bridge at Green Market.”
Mutseyami added: “The Honourable Minister knows this story because it is on the record of the minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development. There was a plan at national level for that bridge to be expanded and to expand as well the flyover — but up to now nothing has been done and, all of a sudden, it is becoming more of a national crisis because it is affecting the countries that I have mentioned in terms of movement of transport and in terms of time management.”