IN a move meant to reduce road carnage in the country, the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) has opened its doors to both the public and motorists keen to familiarise themselves with the new Southern African Development Community (Sadc) road signs and regulations.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
The government recently agreed to harmonise traffic signs with those in other Sadc countries.
The Sadc-Road Traffic Signs Manual (SADC RTSM) became native legislation in Zimbabwe in 2016, with implementation currently under way.
TSCZ has completed a new Highway Code to replace the 1979 document that is currently being used in an effort to curb the huge carnage on the country’s roads.
However, it seems the public is not taking the issue seriously due to lack of knowledge on Sadc uniform road signs.
“I have heard about it, that there will be new road signs, but I haven’t seen any. Most of the drivers I work with have no idea of what is transpiring, whether we are going to get new driver’s licences or not,” Alois Nyemba (31), who operates a pirate taxi that plies the Wedza-Murambinda highway, said.
TSCZ spokesperson Ernest Muchena said the main objective of adopting Sadc road signage is to assist drivers within the region to correctly interpret the signs to avoid road accidents.
“Zimbabwe is a member country and all other Sadc member countries agreed that they should have uniform signage in the region after having realised that the movement of traffic within the region at times entails the driver to drive from a Portuguese-speaking country maybe into an English-speaking country, and sometimes some signage that maybe in foreign language that they do not understand.”
According to TSCZ, the erection of Sadc signage is currently being implemented in the country with the newly-refurbished Plumtree-Mutare Highway the major example.
Cities like Harare, Mutare and Bulawayo have started erecting the road signs while rural district councils like Murewa have such signage in areas within their jurisdiction.
Muchena said there has been positive response for the learning of new road signs, especially long distance truck drivers who ply their trade across the region. He, however, said others were still apprehensive about the change.
His organisation, he said, will embark on massive awareness campaigns with other stakeholders so that all drivers and the public embrace the new signage.
“There has been a good response from drivers, especially, those who have travelled to countries such as Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa they found out that they come across such signage before and at times fail to understand them. They agreed that use of uniform signage will make it easy to travel from one country to another,” he said.
Muchena said resistance to change was normal, but TSCZ, the police and road authorities were going around to educate people on new things such as the four-way stop, the three-way stop, yellow box junction, bus lanes and other issues that needed to be understood by both experienced and learner drivers.
“So we are adjusting the learner driving curriculum,” he said.
The four-way stop system is whereby all vehicles will be compelled to stop while approaching intersections.
According to experts, the system is safer than traditional stop signs and signals at intersections.
According to TSCZ, the upgraded version of the Highway Code that was being revised by a committee made up of a cross-section of stakeholders has gone to print and will be officially launched on April 6.
Transport and Infrastructure Development deputy minister Michael Madhanha said he was happy with the pace the country was adopting the signage issue and said that positive results are imminent if drivers get proper education and awareness.
“We are happy with how the adoption of uniform road sign is progressing and it’s good to note that the Plumtree-Mutare Highway already has the new road signs. We do not have a specific cut-off date when we complete the whole activity as this will be determined by the availability of funds,” he said.
“Some of the road signs are new and a bit different from the ones we have now. Motorists definitely need a bit of training, but we are now about to launch a new Highway Code which contains those new road signs and they will be made available to the general public for them actually learn those roads signs.”
The upgraded version of the Highway Code incorporates new signs that were gazetted in the Statutory Instrument 41 of 2016 which was gazetted on April 8, 2016. This means the gazetted signs are now legal and violation of them will lead to prosecution.
Road accidents are the leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds globally, according to a report published by the World Health Organisation.
Forty of the 50 countries with the highest road death rates across all ages are in Africa.
Traffic accidents now kill more people than malaria in many African countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Sudan.
“Annual pilgrimages by various religious groups are normally done in the month of December. In Zimbabwe, we have a couple of popular prophets who host spiritual conventions which attract thousands of disciples from all over the world. These conventions involve the inevitable use of the road transportation system,” the report read.