Don’t Let Money Hogs Cut Your Life Short This X-mas

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By Surihe Gaomas SWAKOPMUND With the launch of the Xupifa Eemwenyo 2006 road safety campaign, a call has been made for a renewed urgency, a new mindset and heightened public awareness about the dangers of reckless driving and accidents over this coming festive season. Stressing this at last Friday’s launch, Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Stefanus Mogotsi, said that in light of the rising gruesome road accidents, there is a need to “inculcate in our drivers and road-users a new culture towards road safety”. “Enough is enough, and it is time that we address the basics that road safety is a national concern to all of us and needs a collective effort to address the root cause of it,” added Mogotsi. He was addressing representatives of the 35 sponsoring companies at the launch. Forensic audit results on the most gruesome deaths of 28 people in the Grootfontein-Otavi road accident which occurred on May 31 last year and the recent accident on the Rehoboth-Kalkrand road, strikingly show that the passenger vehicles were overloaded, and unfit to carry people in the first place. Quite worrying is the fact that the specifications of the Mercedes Benz Sprinter mini-bus involved in the Grootfontein-Otavi road accident had been tampered with to such an extent that what the manufacturer intended for a goods vehicle with seating capacity for three, had been self-styled and converted into a passenger vehicle. “The Mercedes Benz, which changed ownership several times and its carrying capacity undetectably increased over the years from 3 to 24 passengers in 2000, to 27 plus 1 in 2004, and backyard seat fittings were so unprofessionally done without any Certificate of Compliance,” explained Mogotsi. It appears that this specific vehicle which was carrying the 28 people, passed all the required fitness tests at NaTIS, but tragically led to the deaths of these people on May 31 last year. The vehicle was overloaded with 31 passengers – more than the number it was certified to carry in the first place. “As a result, the instant impact of the Mercedes Benz with the Volvo truck ejected all the seats and resulted in the carnage and untimely deaths of 28 productive and potentially productive citizens of this country,” he added. Pre-audit results of the mini-bus accident on the Rehoboth-Kalkrand Road which killed 10 people instantly, show it had 18 people on board although it was certified to carry only 9 plus one people. These were reported to be two separate incidents, yet so identical in the way they happened. Ultimately, this has led the Ministry of Safety and Security and other relevant stakeholders to push for what Mogotsi termed “a radical and new mindset to the manner in which traditional road blocks are conducted”. Thus, the newly-launched Xupifa Eemwenyo 2006 road safety project is in line with the new thinking. Annual carnage on national roads has reached unacceptable levels for a country with a relatively small vehicle population size. “Our annual statistics indicate that the number of fatal accidents in Namibia compared to South Africa with a vehicle population of 1.6 million vehicles – i.e. almost the size of our population – is considered too high and certainly a source of great concern within the region, and internationally,” said Mogotsi. In view of this, law enforcement officials have been urged to leave no stone unturned at roadblocks with regard to getting rid of unfit vehicles on the national roads. He cautioned: “To our motorists and passengers, please speak to one another not to drink and drive, not to speed and that overloading does not pay.”