By Fifi Rhodes WINDHOEK A traffic gridlock in John Meinert Street during peak hours is driving road users to desperation. Traffic jams are on the rise in suburbs such as Katutura, Pionierspark, Khomasdal and other places around Windhoek. Annual growth in car sales was cited as the main contributing factor to congestion. “Congestion cannot be eased by building more roads because people will simply buy more cars. There needs to be a change in mindset,” said a motorist waiting patiently as her car moved slowly forward while she was trying to collect her schoolchildren during lunch break. Windhoek’s rush hour only lasts for about forty minutes and thereafter normality returns to the traffic chaos. The lady driver who only said her name was Marina thinks that after the latest increase in fuel prices, motorists used 10% more fuel because of traffic congestion. Statistics supplied to New Era indicate the jams cost motorists an extra N$500,000 a year. At the end of last year, the country consumed close to 920 million litres of fuel. Annually, motorists, fishing companies and mines spent close to N$6 billion on petrol and around N$5 billion on diesel. If pump prices had stayed at N$6.11 a litre this year, tax collections would rise by N$1.4 billion, assuming petrol consumption remained static. A bank executive who deals in cars sales said although on average 190 new vehicles were sold each month, at least 35% or 45% of them per annum were scrapped because they were stolen or written off in accidents. More than one million vehicles used Windhoek’s roads, with a high proportion in Katutura followed by the road to Rehoboth. “However, during the morning and afternoon peak hours, traffic is coming to a standstill. “We are feeling it,” said municipal planners of Windhoek City. However, their office could not supply New Era with correct traffic counts for this year. After a request, 130 hours this writer still waits for an answer. Traffic has increased dramatically from the central business district to Katutura as well as in the two industrial areas. “Two years ago, it used to take me less than 20 minutes from Katutura to mid-town,” said Charmaine Joseph, a marketing executive at one of the city’s estate agents. “Now, even if I leave early because of the traffic, the trip takes me half an hour, and I regularly arrive late,” he said. The pain at the petrol pump for motorists may deliver a huge sum of money for the state and contribute towards next year’s budget. But economists and motoring groups say the general feeling is that people are either running down their savings or increasing the level of debt just to finance consumption ‘activity’. A highly placed source at the Motor Vehicle Association of Namibia said motorists were using credit cards to pay for petrol. The state “certainly will get a boost from it”. He called for the money to be ploughed back into roads and public transport. The great bulk of petrol still comes from oil, and, until the world price drops, petrol was “not going to come down in a big way here”.
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