By: Hon S Moodley
Pietermaritzburg KZN Legislature
Madam Speaker, Honourable M.E.C’s, Honourable Members. I greet you all in the spirit of Easter which we just celebrated. Perhaps this debate is perfectly timed as it’s during festive periods like these that the death toll on our province’s roads highlight the very urgent need for us to review two of the department’s strategic objectives which is 1. To provide safe public transport systems, manage traffic and safety of all road users 2. Decrease road fatalities by 30 percent by 2020.
With regards to providing safe public transport systems, it is imperative that the department looks seriously at regulating the taxi industry. It’s no secret that taxis are a common mode of transportation. Sadly there seems to be a sense of lawlessness that prevails in this beleaguered industry. High accident rates, criminality and a blatant disregard for rules of the road seriously compromises the lives of commuters and other road users. If the department offers a subsidy to the taxi industry as is done in the case of buses, there will be greater accountability on the part of taxi owners who would then have to comply with rules that govern road use. In this way we would also be rooting out criminal elements, unlicensed drivers, unroadworthy vehicles and other transgressions which endanger lives on a daily basis.
Another burning issue is that of the learner transport system. We simply cannot sit idly while the lives of our learners are placed at risk due to unroadworthy vehicles transporting them to and from school, overcrowding and the irresponsible behavior of some drivers. A closer monitoring is required with a demerit system which will disqualify certain drivers from being part of the learner transport system if they are found guilty of transgressing the rules meant to ensure the safety, not just of our learners but of all road users.
Another area of concern is the issue of learners being transported to school trips. Proper procedures must be stringently followed to ensure that vehicles transporting learners are roadworthy, have insurance and all other documentation needed in transporting minors.
The department must also look very closely at the entrances and drop off points at municipal clinics and schools. Some of these have no safe and easy access which contributes to the accident rates.
Our province’s roads must be regularly maintained to avoid accidents .Pot holes and other defects must be timeously sorted out and be the responsibility of capable, efficient contractors who will not cost the department money yet deliver shoddy workmanship. We have witnessed time and again how shoddy workmanship ends up draining finances which can be better spend on other key priorities of the department.
Road safety awareness campaigns should be an ongoing priority of the department and not be held just prior to the festive season. Basic road safety must be instilled in primary school learners to ensure they become responsible road users, thereby minimizing road fatalities as you know many young lives are lost on our province’s roads on a daily basis. We maintain that one life lost on our roads is one life too many. Collective efforts are required from all stakeholders to educate, empower and make our road users aware of the dangers of transgressing safety rules. Expensive campaigns albeit effective is temporary and not as effective as ongoing awareness programmes.
We cannot over emphasize the importance of heightened police vigilance by regular roadblocks and regular police visibility. This will send out a clear message that the department we serious about curbing road accidents and promoting safe road use in the interest if saving lives. However we must insist that those found guilty if transgressing the laws must be severely dealt with.
Recently there was a serious accident wherein a bus plunged down an embankment. Preliminary reports pointed to a problem with the road surface. We urge the department that areas of high accident rates be scrutinized and problems addressed. Warning signs should also be clearly visible. The recent bus and taxi crashes should spur the department in taking drastic steps to curb road carnages.
We have noted with concern that the department has purchased graders, yet ironically do not have operators. Thus, these graders which cost large sums of money are white elephants just left on a depot. We urge the department to ensure that resources are not wasted.
While we fully support job creation, we are gravely concerned that those employed through the Extended Public Works Programme seem to be not well supervised. Very often we find beneficiaries of this programme sitting idly on the side of the road. We urge the department to put mechanisms in place that would measure efficiency of staff so that they can be utilized where most needed and be gainfully occupied during work hours.
Another issue that needs to be urgently addressed is that of key posts are left vacant. The department should look at ways of attracting suitable candidates to fill these posts especially in the case of engineers.
We welcome the Department’s commitment to eradicating fraud & corruption which remains an ongoing challenge. We urge the department to follow up on all cases and speedily resolve matters ensuring that the perpetrators are severely dealt with. Pending cases does nothing to assure people of the department’s resolve in stemming the tide of fraud & corruption.
Driving Schools must also be held accountable for the issuing of fraudulent learners and drivers license. This practice has been contributing to the increase of accidents on our province’s roads. Drivers who obtain their licenses fraudulently are a danger to themselves and all other road users as some don’t even abide to speed limits and are ignorant of traffic signs. Driving schools and test centres found guilty of fraud must be severely dealt with.
Corruption remains a sore point which is seriously hampering the visions that underpin the department. Testing centres must be investigated together with licensing offices. It is through the selfish actions of corrupt officials that we continue to bear the costs of accidents and lose lives on out province’s roads
We hereby support the budget of 9.847 billion but caution against wasteful expenditure and advise prudent spending in ensuring that the department realizes all the objectives in the interest of the people of Kwa Zulu Natal.
Finally, we wish to record our thanks to the new MEC who has done a commendable job so far despite his being a challenging portfolio. We wish him well in getting the wheels in motion to drive his department forward to realize their key goals and objectives.
I thank you