While the DA in KwaZulu-Natal welcomes interventions aimed at curbing truck-related crashes in the Pongola area, the fact remains that the lawlessness of heavy-duty vehicles drivers on our roads is a province-wide crisis.
The measures, announced earlier today by Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula include encouraging KZN Transport MEC, Sipho Hlomuka to invoke Section 50 of the National Road Traffic Act.
This allows for the MEC to appoint a person to investigate the specific activities of an identified operator and direct the person so appointed to make a written recommendation to him or her regarding what measures should be taken in respect of such an operator.
Sadly, this intervention comes too late for the 13 families who lost children in last week’s horror accident in Pongola. It is also too little too late for the many people who have lost loved ones on KZN’s roads.
The reality is that there has been a severe lack of political will when it comes to road safety by both the national and provincial ANC-run governments for many years. This includes;
– The failure to amend KZN Provincial Road Act Regulations since 2006
– The failure to act on a 2004 KZN Department of Transport (DoT) White Paper on Freight Transport Policy and
– No evidence of any new KZN road safety initiatives since 2011’s ‘Name and Shame’ campaign and the 2003/4 “Zero Tolerance” campaign prior to then.
Meanwhile, KZN’s roads have become busier and more dangerous – a situation compounded by an ongoing lack of law enforcement and road maintenance on our province’s busiest transport networks.
In 2015 former KZN Premier, Senzo Mchunu, admitted that KZN’s roads were over-burdened and the rail network under-utilized.
During his State of the Province (SOPA) he also vowed that his cabinet would focus on the following over the next five years:
– Working with Transnet to ensure expansion and maintenance of the rail freight network as well as exploring opportunities for manufacturing and servicing of KZN’s required rolling stock
– Ensuring that branch rail lines were revitalized to prevent further movement of goods from rail to road
– Creating additional capacity along primary movement corridors in the Province
– Maintaining secondary road networks and extending rural road access in support of rural development initiatives and;
– Working with PRASA to improve passenger rail services and explore the possibility of establishing high-speed rail connections in KZN.
Unsurprisingly, none of this has ever happened.
If ever there was a sign of a government that does not care, this must be it. People are dying on our roads, almost daily. Condolences from government officials at accident scenes won’t cut it anymore. Nor will empty promises from government.
Given government’s inability act, the DA in KZN will be formulating a White Paper with proposed solutions to the overall transport challenges facing our province. We remain committed to fighting for safer roads in our province.