Remarks by Deputy Minister of Transport Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, MP, on the occasion of the mass memorial service of 19 bus crash victims, Sebokeng, Gauteng
4 Jul 2012
Family members, friends and colleagues of the departed
Representatives of the Gauteng Provincial Government,
The Sedibeng municipality and
Emfuleni municipality present here
Officials of the Road Accident Fund
Officials Putco bus service present here
All protocol observed
It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I stand before you today to offer words of condolences to the bereaved families. Losing your loved one is not an easy thing to go through, let alone if life is lost in this tragic manner.
The Minister of Transport Mr Ben Martins and I received with great shock reports of the bus crash last Monday. At first I had hoped that it was some kind of a bad dream that I would eventually wake up from. However this was not to be. Nineteen lives had perished in a blink of an eye.
Last night we received information that another passenger who had sustained injuries during the crash has died, bringing the number of the deceased to 20.
I therefore wish to take this opportunity to convey, on behalf government, our sincere and heartfelt condolences for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult period. Your loss is our loss.
Road safety is one of the many subjects that keep us busy in government. We have made it a priority because of the unacceptable high number of people who lose their lives on our roads daily.
According to statistics at our disposal, at least 14 thousand people lose their lives on our roads every year. This translates to at least 40 road fatalities each day. We all have to agree that this is abnormal and we must join hands and wage a fierce offensive against road carnage.
Each one of us has a responsibility to ensure that our roads are safe. As government we are responsible for putting in place necessary legislations to ensure safety in our roads. However we will not succeed if we do not get the buy in and support of members of the public.
It is for this reason that we have established Community Road Safety Councils to assist us with this difficult task of saving lives on our roads.
The primary task of Road Safety Councils is to involve members of the community in road safety programmes, ensuring that they take ownership of the roads and streets in their communities.
Through Road Safety Councils, members of the community are able to identify areas that require the urgent attention of government. These would be places where car crashes occur frequently and where pedestrians are hit by cars more often than not.
Road Safety Councils also assist us take notice of areas that require engineering interventions such as traffic calming measures like speed humps, traffic circles, visible road signage or traffic lights.
All these responsibilities put Road Safety Councils at the centre of our fight against road carnage. I therefore urge every member of this community to roll up your sleeves and do your part to end this avoidable loss of lives.
It is also important to note that as government we only have a limited number of traffic officers to ensure that motorists who drive on our roads adhere to all the rules of the road without exception at all times. On the last count we had at least 17 thousand officers comprising national, provincial and municipal spheres of government.
This figure is against at least nine million registered vehicles that travel on our roads daily. This therefore places a huge responsibility on the part of the motorists, public transport passengers and pedestrians to play their part in policing traffic violations and making our roads safer.
Motorists have a responsibility to police fellow motorists on the roads. If you see a vehicle being driven recklessly, you must take down the registration of such a vehicle and report to traffic authorities or the police. Those who travel by busses and taxis must refuse to be packed into un-roadworthy and overloaded vehicles. You must be brave and politely tell drivers and queue marshals that you cannot be packed like sardines in a tin or bags of potatoes behind a truck.
If a driver speeds beyond the prescribed limit you must request them to reduce the speed. If you see your driver looking tired, you must request them to rest. You are better late never! The Road Traffic Management Corporation number to call to report irresponsible and potentially dangerous behaviour on our roads is 0861 400 800. I repeat 0861 400 800.
Statistics reveal that out of the 14 thousand people who die on our roads every year, at least 40 percent of those are not travelling by car, meaning that they are pedestrians. Motorists and pedestrians alike have a responsibility towards one another. Motorists must always be on the lookout for pedestrians and drive carefully at all times, particularly within residential and other high traffic volume areas such as shopping centres, busy intersections and; taxi and bus stations. The road is a shared space where we need to exercise tolerance towards one another.
On the other hand, pedestrians have an equal responsibility to respect vehicles. They must avoid competing for space with cars on the roads. Pedestrians must not walk in areas dedicated for cars.
The same way motorists must not drive or park their cars in pedestrian walk ways or pavements, thereby forcing pedestrians into the road. Pedestrians must always wear visible clothing, especially when it’s dark to avoid being hit by cars.
The Department of Transport recently launched a pedestrian safety campaign called “Think Pedestrian” aimed at highlighting the plight of pedestrians. The programme is a partnership between us, the United Nations, Nelson Mandela Day, provinces, municipalities and the private sector.
The Think Pedestrian campaign will be introduced to every community in the country through partnerships with Road Safety Councils. We implement all these campaigns in our bid to meet the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety commitment of reducing road fatalities by half between 2011 and 2020.
These are basic things that look very minor but if practiced, we could avoid the many deaths we record on our roads daily.
Our agency, the Road Traffic Management Corporation has been working with the provincial and local traffic authorities and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to get to the bottom of what caused this horrific bus crash.
It is important that we know the cause so that we ensure this never happens again. We would be failing in our duties if we were to simply let this pass without determining the actual cause.
We have also requested the owners and operators of the bus in question to cooperate with the investigation process so that we can speedily establish the cause and ensure that necessary steps are taken if need be.
We await the outcome of a Mechanical Forensic Investigation into the matter and we will pronounce as soon as that report is made available to us.
I wish to commend our agency, the Road Accident Fund (RAF) for moving with speed in assisting the families of the deceased. I have been informed that a Road Accident Fund team was put together, a mobile office was erected and direct claims officials were dispatched to the government mortuary to assist the families of the deceased.
The team also assisted the families with advice regarding claiming for the burial costs. An official of the RAF was nominated to assist families with claiming for Loss of Support where the deceased had income. It gives me comfort to reiterate that the RAF will take responsibility for the burial costs of all those who lost their lives in this bush crash.
While there’s clearly a lot of work that still needs to be done in our quest to make our roads safer, we are encouraged by the latest statistics that show a remarkable reduction in road fatalities.
Over the Easter long weekend for instance, the number of road fatalities came down drastically from 297 recorded during the same period last year to about 188 this year. While this is not a cause for celebration, it however serves as a reliable indicator that we are winning the battle against road carnage. It is possible, we can do it.
As government we do not take sole credit for this decline in road fatalities. We believe that motorists should be commended for beginning to realise the need to take personal responsibility for what happens with their cars once they get into the road.
A new breed of a responsible driver is emerging; one who says road safety is my responsibility. We encourage motorists to embrace the spirit of road safety and support government’s programmes aimed at saving lives.
Once again I wish to convey, on behalf of government, our deepest condolences to the families of the bereaved and wish a speedy recovery to those who sustained injuries.
The book of Revelation chapter 21, verse 4 reads: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
To the families of the departed and the injured, I wish God’s presence in your lives now and beyond. Seek comfort in Him; he shall grace you with his presence in your hour of need.
Working together we can win the war against road carnage!
I thank you for your attention.
Issued by: Department of Transport
4 Jul 2012
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