THE government’s robust response to the increasing carnage on the country’s roads is encouraging, but a word of caution has to be sounded lest the good intentions brew a disaster in future.
Transport minister Obert Mpofu has in the past few weeks proposed a cocktail of measures to curb the number of road accidents including increasing the age limit for public service vehicle drivers by 10 years to 35.
Mpofu has also announced plans to phase out urban commuter omnibuses in line with comprehensive moves to decongest major cities as well as create a modern and affordable transport system.
He was probably reacting to widespread complaints that commuter omnibus drivers and touts are not responsible on the roads.
The drivers and touts are notorious for bribing police officers because most of the times their vehicles are not fit to be on the road.
They are also known not to respect road rules, overloading, operating from undesignated points and causing chaos on the roads generally.
However, this has not made Mpofu’s proposal to phase out the commuter omnibuses, popularly known as kombis, acceptable to many Zimbabweans.
For example, we reported early this week that the Zimbabwe Passengers Association (ZPA) led by Paul Makiwa feels the phasing out of the kombis would have a negative impact on the economy.
ZPA argues that Zimbabwe already has adequate laws regulating public service vehicles, which are not being enforced.
The association cites regulations that for instance say a public vehicle like a kombi should have a carrying capacity of 16 passengers but in Zimbabwe it is more common to find them carrying 18 passengers or more at a given time. Kombis are still a popular form of transport in neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana.
The same applies to age restriction for public service drivers, it is just a matter of enforcing the law.
Mpofu’s proposals may be noble, but the government needs thorough consulations before the radical changes because of their potentially far reaching consequences on people’s livelihoods and the economy in general.