South Africa Deputy Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga on Wednesday led an awareness campaign in Pretoria, appealing for caution from drivers and pedestrians, particularly during the imminent long weekend which is coinciding with the month-end.
Traffic and commuter activities on South African roads are expected to increase tremendously due to the coming extended weekend from Thursday, April 27 which is Freedom Day, and Monday May 1, which is international Workers’ Day.
Chikunga interacted with commuters and drivers, particularly taxi drivers, around the Bosman Station in Pretoria central which is the hub of trains, taxis and long distance buses.
“Nobody is supposed to die, simply because we have a long weekend. Really, it can’t be. It can’t be that simply because we have a long weekend, then somebody young is supposed to die. But this is what is happening in South Africa. We had 70 of people who died during the recent Easter weekend being young men, majority being between 25 to 35. Some were breadwinners, with qualifications from universities,” said Chikunga.
“It can’t be that we allow that to happen. We can change that, working together and supporting the department that is supposed to lead. This story can change, and it has to change.”
Chikunga said many people were anticipated to be on the roads from Wednesday.
“We are here therefore to remind our taxi industry, all South Africans, to say we are going to have yet another increase in traffic volumes on our main routes such as our national roads,” she said.
“This long weekend is falling on the end of the month and we are so concerned because in South Africa when people have money they tend to drink and drive. We are therefore going to be focusing on our long routes, national routes, provincial routes, but also we will be in the residential areas working together with our local municipality traffic officers. People must not drink and drive.”
Chikunga said government was still reeling from the increased number of road fatalities experienced over the Easter period.
“Looking at the number of accidents and fatalities that happened during the Easter weekend, particularly those that affected pedestrians, we are so concerned that it might increase if we do not put more measures during this long weekend because people will be having money,” said Chikunga.
South Africa National Taxi Council (Santaco) president Phillip Taaibosch appealed to taxi drivers to exercise extreme caution, especially during the long weekend.
“Let’s make sure that our vehicles are roadworthy and they are ready for the road. All our drivers should understand one thing – that the roads in South Africa are a shared space. We need to respect each other and we need to make sure that we give each other a chance on the road,” he said.
“Our speed in the taxis should not exceed 100 [kilometers per hour]. We should make sure that all our passengers, including yourself, and other road users arrive alive. That is the message from Santaco.”
Last week, Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi revealed that preliminary statistics indicate that more than 230 people were killed during the Easter period, with overall road fatality figures rising by 51% in comparison with same period last year.
In total, the number of fatalities increase by 79, from 156 over the Easter period of 2016, to 235 this year.
– African News Agency