THIS year alone, just halfway through the year, three fatal road accidents have been declared as national disasters. The most recent, which is also the most grave one so far this year, is the Lion King bus accident that occurred along the Harare-Chirundu Highway on June 7, where 43 people were killed and a number of the surviving passengers injured, after the bus veered off the road and hit a tree.
In April, 20 people were killed on the spot and 40 injured after a South Africa-registered haulage truck sideswiped a Johannesburg-bound Proliner bus near Mvuma along the Harare-Masvingo Highway. Prior that, in March there was another horror crash in Kwekwe which claimed 31 lives after a Pfochez Yutong Bus burst its front right tyre and before sideswiping with a Mercedes Benz Sprinter.
According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, by 2020, road accidents are expected to be the main cause of deaths globally whilst at the moment in Zimbabwe on average, five people die and 38 are injured everyday due to road carnages.
Addressing Manicaland stakeholders recently during ongoing countrywide consultations that are proposing the creation of a national Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, the director of transport management in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Allowance Sango said the accelerated rate of road accidents claiming lives in the public transport sector was now alarming, a reason alone to fast consider the creation of a national road accident fund.
Sango said Treasury does not have a budget for national disaster accidents which means that Government has to scrounge for coincidental funds each time a national disaster is pronounced. He cited that this was however avoidable if a road accident fund is set up.
“We are all potential victims or causers of road accidents. It should not be a blame game but something that we should be prepared for as a nation. In 2012 road accidents were number nine as the main cause of death globally but currently road carnages are ranked fourth causal of death with predictions that by 2020 they will overtake all other pandemic disease burdens and be the main cause of death globally,” he said.
He said monitoring compliance to post crash management was now a necessity to ascertain the country’s level of preparedness to road accidents.
Sango added that the setting up of the road accident fund would address Pillar 5 of the Moscow Declaration, which deals with post-crash management which has three phases rescue, hospitalisation and rehabilitation.
“The fund will ensure fair compensation of victims and their families in the event of road accidents and it will also focus on essential services that guarantee preparedness to road carnages like purchase of more ambulances, VID (Vehicle Inspection Department) inspection vehicles and other forensic test technology, which are key to have in place efficient post crash management systems. Our current state of unpreparedness is terrible, where in most cases, ambulance services and paramedics are hesitant to attend to people injured at accident scenes because of uncertainty over payment and DNA tests to identify the deceased take forever due to limited resources and experts services,” said Sango.
Sango however said so far the proposal of the road accident fund had been well received by all stakeholders, whilst the Draft for Parliament is expected to be ready by December for implementation in 2018.
TSCZ managing director Obio Chinyere said Zimbabwe would not be reinventing the wheel by creating a road accident fund. He however said the fund should be tailor made for Zimbabweans for it to be sustainable, which explains why they were holding consultations countrywide to get input from stakeholders.
“We have done consultations in Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo, Kadoma and Harare and now we are in Mutare. In the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia all have this road fund. It will not only assist post crash management systems, but also work towards preventing accidents,” said Chinyere.
TSCZ administration and finance director Clifford Gobo said already they had done their homework from the regional road accident funds but now needed buy-in from local stakeholders on the best way to finance and administrate the fund.
He gave examples of how the 1996 South African accident fund was flawed with operation and structural challenges, as it was always in deficit and behind on payouts of claims due to its unrealistic compensation scheme. The Namibian and Botswana schemes were however highlighted as successful hybrids, borrowing the framework of the South African model, but with some tailor made adjustments, something he recommended Zimbabwe to adopt for its own envisaged fund. The Botswana fund is financed from a 10 percent fuel levy and returns from investments it would have made.
“What we do not want is replication of duties that unnecessarily chew more money from government. We want an efficient structure that really serves the interests of the people,” said Gobo.
It emerged that Zimbabwe has an estimated vehicle population of about 1.2 million, which is growing at a rate of between five and 10 percent per year. Mr Gobo however said most people were being injured in unregistered and uninsured vehicles, which is a major concern for post crash management.
Stakeholders suggested various schemes for the fund with some suggesting the creation of a fund similar to the Aids Levy where deductions will be made from everyone’s payslip. Some suggested a fuel levy to be the main source of revenue whilst others said 10 percent of revenue from all traffic offenses should go towards the road fund.
To avoid replication of duties Manicaland stakeholders recommended TSCZ and the National Social Security Authority as well-resourced institutions that could administrate the fund.
Although Government has so far been able to support all bereaved families with money for funeral costs in all the accidents which were declared national disasters, Manicaland stakeholders said the road accident fund was long overdue and is the only prospective measure that can ensure full-proof post crash systems in the event of fatal road carnages.