The horrific bus accident that killed 37 members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) on Friday should spur serious conversations around Zimbabwe’s unsustainably high road traffic death rate with the aim of finding urgent solutions.
According to police, the bus carrying 106 members of the church “went out of the road and fell into a gorge” in Chimanimani.
Police said 70 people were injured in the accident and 13 of them were in critical condition.
Questions would be asked why the bus was carrying 106 people, clearly way above the number of permitted passengers in a conventional bus.
It will be premature to speculate on the cause of the accident, but the number of fatalities should provoke the responsible authorities to start seriously looking into the road traffic death rate in this country.
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe statistics show an increase in road traffic crash fatalities of 35 percent between 2010 (2 291 deaths) and 2019 (2 000).
Five people die every day on the roads in Zimbabwe and this translates to 153 people killed per month, the official data shows.
A United Nations Road Safety Performance Review of Zimbabwe released in January revealed that the country had the highest road crash fatality rate in southern Africa.
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Zimbabwe’s road crash fatality rate increased from 1 836 in 2016 to an average 2 000 deaths per year, which translated to five deaths per day, from 2017 to 2019, the report said.
The UN said the figure could be over three times higher considering that the World Health Organisation estimated that Zimbabwe recorded 7 000 road deaths per year and that government figures the report relied on do not account for victims who die on the way, in hospital or after discharge.
It said the annual death rate is expected to triple in the next 10 years if the authorities do not act to stop the carnage on the roads.
With such grim statistics, it cannot continue to be business as usual for the responsible authorities.
The law enforcement agencies should be reviewing their policing mechanism because it is clear that something is not working as unroadworthy vehicles and poorly trained drivers continue to ply the country’s roads.
The Zimbabwe Road Conditions and Inventory Report of 2017 mentions unsafe road infrastructure as a major contributor to fatal accidents with 70% of the road network said to be in a very bad state.
This is a crisis by any measure and there is need to act now to stop the carnage.