31 May 2001Do they really care? Part 1
|For some time
now the people of Krugersdorp have been concerned about the extravagant
amount of money that our "mayor" wants to spend on renovations as well
as a "mayoral home". Over and above that fact that the name Krugersdorp
with it's proud Boer history, has now been scrapped for the more "socially
acceptable" and "politically correct" name of Mogale City (makes you think
of some soccer team, doesn't it?) which comes from an old African tribe
who used to live about eighty kilometers from Krugersdorp, we've had to
put up with the mayor racing around with no respect for other road users
in his fancy BMW, ANC councillors stealing electricity and cannabis growing
right outside the mayors' office window.
Over the past couple of months there has been talks of millions of Rands being spent to renovate the town council buildings. Then followed the announcement that our mayor's home is too small to entertain international guests and that a special house should be built for this purpose. Included in that of course, this place must be furbished.
Why stop there? Our mayor, one Lentswe Mokgatle wants to pay himself a salary three times what our president is earning! Another mayor needs a bulletproof car and a forty million Rand budget increase for paying his staff!
Over and above the fact that these people are positively busy sucking this country and it's people dry, what do we as a people have to cheer for? This country is in total chaos. Our government is allowing people to be killed everyday. Crime and more crime.
Here's a horror
The South African government has made safety in transport its top priority - at sea, in the skies, on the railways, and – particularly - on the roads.
So the country’s motorists and transport operators can expect an increasingly get-tough policy to combat what has become one of the worst road accident rates in the world.
Minister of Transport Abdulah Mohamed Omar has revealed some of the strategies in his report to the National Council Of Provinces this week. Earlier, he criticised motor companies for the emphasis being placed on speed in car advertising.
The Minister says although the roads are the transport area in which safety is of particular government concern, he is encouraged by the improvements that have been achieved.
“Of course there remains a huge task ahead of us,” he says, “but it needs to be said that we have made progress.”
“The general statistical trend since 1994 is clearly downward, and has begun to show welcome signs of consolidation since the introduction of Arrive Alive in 1998,” Omar reveals. “We are achieving year-on-year reductions in crash and fatality rates of between 6 and 9%, which has led us to believe we may be able to start setting more stringent reduction targets a lot sooner than we initially expected - particularly once our forthcoming structural reform measures begin to bite.”
He reveals that the finishing touches are now being put to South Africa's comprehensive new road safety strategy, which is being called The Road to Safety, 2001-2005.
“The Road to Safety is all about getting to grips, for the first time in our history, with the underlying causes of crashes and deaths on our roads,” Omar declares.
“It looks hard at systems and structures and proposes a wide range of interlinked investment programmes and reform actions to radically improve the safety of the total road environment. Wherever possible, it opens up space for public empowerment and private sector and community participation. We want this strategy to belong to the whole country. We are determined to ensure that it becomes an instrument for turning road safety into a national crusade.
“The Road to Safety has identified six key problem areas. They are as follows:
on our roads aren't licensed, can't drive properly or won't drive responsibly:
speeding, moving violations and driving under the influence of alcohol
or drugs are still very serious concerns.
In respect of the road user, the focus first will be on basic driver competence and the testing and licensing system.
“We are going to support provinces to upgrade sub-standard driver licensing testing centres, professionalise driving licence examiner qualifications and tighten deregistration criteria for both DLTCs and examiners,” says the Minister. “We are also going to introduce a user-friendly computerised learner driver's testing system that offers the test in audio-visual format in all 11 national languages and minimises opportunity for fraud.
“To address the wider patterns of corruption and malpractice in the administration of the full driving test, we are going to significantly expand the numbers and upgrade the capacity of the current DLTC Inspectorate, putting a particular emphasis on providing them with strong technical and forensic auditing skills.
“We are also going to take steps to formalise and regulate the driving school sector. This will mean setting strict accreditation and registration criteria for owners, clearly defined customer service standards and higher levels of technical knowledge and driving skill for driving instructors.
“Finally, as regards driver competence, particular attention will be paid to the fitness of professional drivers in the heavy freight, bus and coach industries. We will tighten the existing practical, theoretical and medical tests for the renewal of the professional driver's permit (PrDP); and we will work with operators, trade unions and the Department of Labour to ensure that proper training systems are in place and that professional drivers are guaranteed safe working hours and conditions.
“Parallel to all these measures, we will be launching the Road Traffic Management Corporation later this year, which will introduce much greater control and coherence into road traffic management systems, enforcement and the professional development of officers nationally.
“ I am also pleased to confirm that the Road Traffic Infringement Agency will come into being in the second half of this year. As you will recall, this will enable us to take routine traffic violations out of the courts and into an administrative adjudication system that will radically improve traffic fine collection and, in due course, implement the points demerit system against both offending drivers and transport operators.
“In addition, we have already cleared the ground for consultation with our colleagues in the criminal justice system to gain consensus for more uniform sentencing patterns and for the introduction of much tougher penalties for major traffic offences.”
In respect of improving vehicle fitness, Omar says that government strategy is to start out by upgrading sub-standard public vehicle test stations and attending to examiner competencies.
“But we will go a step further,” he declares. “The many areas of weakness in the vehicle testing system that have emerged over the last few years have led us to the conclusion that a thoroughgoing review and reform of the entire vehicle testing system is needed. This includes looking again at its ownership structure as well as thoroughly revising the current manuals, regulatory procedures, data transfer links and systems for monitoring quality standards and detecting malpractice.”
The Department of Transport has already begun a process of consultation with operators on key safety issues. In addition to the issue of professional driver competence, there are to be measures addressing vehicle and general fleet safety management.
“Our preferred approach is to encourage committed industry self-regulation,” the Minister comments. “But we have also made it very clear that where this is not forthcoming, we will not hesitate to intervene with regulation and the enforcement of meaningful penalties.
“Together with the respective road freight and public passenger industry associations and trade unions, we are about to embark on a formal consultation process to define the terms and create the necessary monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for a standard operator Code of Practice. This will lay down stringent criteria for vehicle maintenance and safety management systems. It will be implemented through a compliance review system and will include prohibitive sanctions for transgression.
“We will at the same time carry forward negotiations that have already started on the implementation of key safety technologies like top speed limiters and tyre safety management systems.”
Turning to the controversial issues of the minibus taxis, the Minister believes that “very significant progress has been made with the democratisation process in the industry”.
“All nine provinces have finally elected representative Provincial Taxi Councils, and we are moving forward steadily with preparations for a first, historic, National Conference of the taxi industry, which will adopt a new constitution and elect the industry's first fully representative national leadership,” he says.
That's it, now let's see what's been done about it :
A taxi crashes head-on with a truck. Twelve people die in the taxi, including the driver. On investigation police find some documents indicating that this vehicle was taken off the road (unroadworthy) about three years ago. The driver has unpaid fines for transporting passengers without a valid permit, for driving an unroadworthy vehicle and for failing to stop at red traffic lights. They also found essential safety components missing with pieces of wire keeping parts of the vehicles' breaking system together where bolts should be.
Now if these bastards can get off their backsides and implement what they proposed above, we will feel that maybe they're worth part of what we're paying them (or rather what they're paying themselves)!