Mbabane: In relation to its neighbors it is glaring to see that Eswatini has a long way to go in terms of curbing crime and road carnages that claim large numbers of lives annually. This observation was made by Chief Director of Traffic Management in the Western Cape, South Africa, Herman Africa.
South Africa has come up with best practices to fatalities, among which are tackling distracted driving and illegal substances. Africa said the death of young people on the roads can be attributed to drugs and there is a need for traffic law enforcers to be up all day all week, inspecting vehicles for possible transportation of drugs.
He said the need to conduct schedules on Traffic Fatigue Management, Learner Drivers, Weekend Blitzes, Average Speed Technology and Communication is something that cannot be debated but implemented.
In South Africa the first best practice is dissuading the use of cell phones while driving, which is a great concern in Eswatini where drivers including law enforcement officers are guilty of.
Traffic law enforcers in Eswatini need to adopt the same method as South Africa where the use of bi-laws have worked towards curbing the use of cell phones while driving, whereby they have to stop anyone spotted speaking or texting on his cell phone while driving and fine them a considerable amount of money. According to Africa in SA anyone spotted using his cell phone while on the driver’s seat is fined an exorbitant amount of R1 500 in addition to confiscating the phone, and paying an extra R2 500 to get it back.
Africa said after this bi-law was introduced in SA there was a noticeable decline in the number of crashes, crashes which previously were experienced before the law came into effect. He said it is sad that innocent souls are lost as a result of negligence on the roads, making an example of a young woman who didn’t have her father to walk her down the aisle when she got married, all due to a careless driver who did not take safety precautions. Africa said road crashes are due to irresponsible decision making and unless there is a change of attitude in terms of road use, crashes will continue happening.
Eswatini has experienced a number of traffic accidents in a space of three weeks, with the most horrific involving police officers and a truck driver, which saw 12 people dying on the spot.
Best practices in the quest to curb crime and road accidents include restricting drugs, which come in various forms in the Republic of South Africa. The chief director said the SA Traffic Department has confiscated drugs like Cathinone, tick, mandrax heroin, cocaine, dagga, magic mushrooms and ecstasy. 80 percent were confiscated on N1, N2, N7, R27 and R21 roads. “In July 2010 to date more than one and a half million Rands worth of drugs were found in the Western Cape. Other drugs seized were hashish, LSD, speed, crystal math, and ephedrine”, said Africa. They have also pounced on counterfeit cigarettes in master cases, bricks, packets and sticks. The director said when they catch a person with drugs or illegal cigarettes they are able to determine the cost of the contraband, for instance, the drug ecstasy per tablet in the Western Cape costs around R47.95, so, when they find say 100 000 tablets they are able tell the street value of the load.
He added that they cannot be fooled by the type and make of modes of transport and they have stopped mini-buses, luxury coach liners, sedans, heavy duty vehicles, motor-cycles, bicycles, airplanes, trains and marines. They even search non-motorized transport like pedestrians.
Africa said all modes of transport should be suspicious and stopped, adding that traffic officers should not work based on conscience but practicality. In the end what illegal substance is found in motor vehicles contributes to traffic crashes which impact greatly on the country’s economic growth.
He said the fight against crime transcends road crashes as they have pounced on illegal substances like counterfeit goods, dried shark fins, abalone and crayfish. In August 23, 2018, SA seized R600 000 worth of abalone in Laingsburg alone, and on the same day in Swellendam seized R538 500 worth of the same illegal substance. A recent major abalone catch was worth R4 million. R426 000 worth of abalone was confiscated in Mosselbay, while on February 18, 2019 officers busted 482 Kilograms of dagga with the street value of RR965 000, transported in a LDV.
The director mentioned that economic growth is greatly compromised due illegal substances being transported in the types of locomotives which in the end are involved in crashes as they flee from law enforces. He said Eswatini should not take lightly what is transported in motor vehicles.
“Transportation of illegal stuff will eventually lead to road crashes as offenders will often drive above the speed limit, fleeing from the police in an attempt to evade arrests”, said the director, adding that in 2019 in Worcester, Cape Town, they confiscated illegal goods consisting of fake running shoes and apparel, with a street value of R11.8 million. The highest value of a load of illicit cigarettes confiscated was R3.8 million in Worcester. He said illicit cigarettes cost South Africa R5.8 billion in loss of taxes, what revenue could be used for worthy causes like development of schools and hospitals.
Meanwhile, Eswatini seems to encourage the free trade of illegal items like fake cigarettes mainly imported from Mozambique.
Africa mentioned that between 10pm and 6am they stop vehicles and do thorough and proper searches, hence, they were able to bust such huge quantities of illegal substances. He urged Royal Eswatini Police Service to do the same as SAPS and thus prevent the entry of illicit drugs and material from coming into the country.
Stopping every two hours
Another practice that has been adopted by the SAPS is fatigue management which is the control of drivers who fall asleep while behind the steering wheel, thus causing a crash. The director said some drivers take a chance on the roads and drive while extremely tired; saying fatigue is a silent killer. He said some could drive from as far as Eswatini to Cape Town, South Africa without cease, which has led to the SAPS to come up with a ‘golden rule’, whereby vehicles must stop every stop every 200 Kilometers or 2 hours to rest, get out of the vehicle, stretch their legs and then start on the next 200 Kilometers or 2 hours.
“In 2019 a family from Johannesburg was returning home from Cape Town after a holiday adventure when the father lost control of the vehicle resulting in a crash that killed his 18 year old son”, said the director, adding that the father would live the rest of his life being haunted by the bad decision he made.
In December 2011, 14 lives perished in crashes on the so-called notorious ‘road of death’ between Laingsburg, Beaufort West, and Aberdeen. The director said personally, he did a study on the road and found that every evening between 8 o’clock and 6 in the morning people died on that road, and, looking deeper he found that 95 percent of those people were public transport drivers.
He decided that as from December 22, 2011, between 8 o’clock in the evening and 6 in the morning the Western Cape Traffic Service in Beaufort West in Laingsburg would stop all public transport, inspect the drivers for fatigue and if tired the officers would seize the keys and park the vehicle for 6 hours. From that time, said Africa, they have stopped 146 719 vehicles and parked 16 023 of them, all due to fatigue on the part of the drivers. The director said when they started the program in 2010, the number of slightly injured motor vehicle passengers was 331 and the following year in 2011 it came down to 123. In 2012 it came even further down to 67. He said in 2010 the total number of fatalities was 67, all occurring between 8 o’clock in the evening and 6 in the morning. The following year, in 2011, the number dropped to 33 and in 2012 went further down to 6. In 2013 it came down to 2. Africa showed comparative statistics on fatalities on the Laingsburg and Aberdeen road, from 2010 to 2017 and they stood like this:
- 2010 – 67 fatalities
- 2011 – 33 fatalities
- 2012 – 6 fatalities
- 2013 – 2 fatalities
- 2014 – 14 fatalities
- 2015 – 17 fatalities
- 2016 – 6 fatalities
- 2017 – 1 fatalities
The director revealed that the reason why the numbers shot up in 2014 and 2017, respectively, was due to one taxi in 2014 losing control with 14 people dying. In 2015 an accident involving 2 taxes killed 17 passengers. Africa said every single morning, from 6 in the morning to eight, traffic officers from Laingsburg and Beaufort West must report how many taxes they stopped and parked the previous evening. Every two weeks as the chief director of the traffic service in the Western Cape, Africa does a spot check, draws out some of the numbers, gets the registrations and vehicle ownership, and calls the drivers or owners to verify the truth. This is for the purpose of accountability and protection of the traffic officers, said the director.
The SAPS also have a sharp eye on learner drivers, some of who transport school children.
“Over a four year period, every morning, before and after school, officers stop and inspect vehicles that transport school children, where in the event we have stopped 16 387 learner transport buses and found 853 vehicles operating without licenses, 175 drivers without driver’s license and 865 children overloaded”, said the chief director.
He said 211 drivers were without the PrDP while 152 buses were discontinued mainly due to defective service and parking brakes. 19 drivers were arrested for drunken driving and for various other offences. 2 600 summons were issued all to the value of over R3 million.
Africa submitted that such exposés happened between 7 in the morning and the schools’ out hours. He testified that in 2011 in Rheenendal, outside Knysna, a bus driver who was transporting 14 school children drove into a river, gruesomely killing all children. In August, 2010, in Blackheath there occurred a train crash where 10 people died, due to a taxi driver who took chances and sought to overtake and beat the train.
He said they will not compromise especially on drunk drivers. “In 2010, shortly before the world cup international security personnel called me and asked if it was safe, in terms of the transportation system, for their people to come to South Africa and I responded positively but there were disappointments due to crashes that occurred”, said the chief director.
This led to the chief director and his team going on to do a study of a specific road where they found that every Friday up to 20 people die on that road due to drunken driving and on same day the chief director decided that they would conduct weekend alcohol blitzes.
“Since April 1, 2010, we have conducted 26 alcohol blitzes every weekend, starting on Friday at 8 in the evening to 7 in the morning. We would start again on Saturday at 10 at night to 4 in the morning on Sunday”, said the chief director.
He said they found that in South Africa the precarious days were the weekend, being Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the more serious cases occurring from 10 o’clock at night to 6 in the morning. Up to 7 500 people are tested every month, said Africa, adding that in 2019 in the Western Cape, 1 439 drivers were arrested due to drink and driving, with the highest alcohol reading taken in Worcester in 2018 and was 2.16 mg/100 ml, 9 times over the legal limit.
He mentioned that from 2010 to 2019 the number of road blocks manned were 12 496 and 13 111 arrests made, adding that as the traffic service in SA they have Random Breath Testing (RBT) facilities which are fully equipped in traffic vehicles. With this facility, which prints out the record of proof on site, they do not have to take the suspect to some distant place. “The suspect is arrested on the site and if found above the legal limit the record is used in court”, said the chief director, adding that Random Breath Testing means they can stop the driver anytime and test him. In addition to the RBT facility they have helicopters flying across Cape Town with banners written ‘Random Breath Testing’.
The chief director said they noted that pay day weekends have a lot to do with crime and road safety as more people go out and drink due to money in their hands. “On these days motorists go out and drink because they perceive the chances of being detected as slim”, said the chief director. He said compared to other weekends, road deaths in SA rise by as much as 23.6 percent on pay day weekends. On average, 3.6 people are killed every day on the Western Cape roads while on pay days the numbers rise to 6.2 people.