By Frederick Philander
A new Bill proposing compensation for all road accident victims, irrespective of whether the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund finds fault on the part of drivers, is presently receiving serious government attention.
This was officially announced by the Deputy Minister of Finance, Tjekero Tweya, last week at the closure of a ten-day accident-investigating workshop for police officers. Some 25 selected law enforcement officers from all 13 regions attended the workshop at the Patrick Iyambo Police Training College.
“The Bill aims to benefit all accident victims on our roads, who go away with a fault stigma. It also proposes to apportion benefits to accident victims who contributed to the accident. This means that passengers and drivers who happen to disrespect traffic laws will not enjoy full benefit from the MVA Fund,” Tweya warned.
“The increased number of accidents on the country’s national roads has disturbed the government and has promoted a call for a joint venture by all stakeholders to help stop the carnage caused by over-speeding, unroadworthy vehicles, and drivers not adhering to traffic laws and regulations,” said Tweya, who was one of four speakers addressing the increasing number of accidents on Namibia’s roads.
A major concern for road safety is incapacity to properly investigate accidents so that factual causes of accidents are properly established by the Namibian Police.
“I wish to commend the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) for initiating this workshop, and hope that many more Namibian police officers will be trained to properly investigate road accidents. This training will enable police officers to investigate accidents so that informed decisions about possible prosecution or compensation are made,” he said.
The current MVA Fund’s mandate does not provide for road safety, but it has been identified as a need to engage in it rather than being reactive.
“The government has approved a submission in this regard through which many Namibians have since benefited from a road safety initiative,” he said.
Economic growth and self-sustainability can only be achieved if citizens are assured that their lives are not lost on the roads.
“The government has noted with keen interest the role the MVA and the Namibian Police have played at some major road accidents in which many people have died. The quick response initiative by the MVA is one of the fastest service deliveries by a government agency. Other government agencies should emulate such efforts,” said Tweya.
The Inspector-General of the Namibian Police, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, warned police officers to refrain from corrupt practices that can undermine the application of justice.
“The Namibian Police have been inhibited from efficiently executing their duties because of the lack of sufficient resources. It therefore grabbed at the opportunity to go into partnership with the MVA to help prevent road accidents during a recent campaign. Through this cooperation, certain shortcomings had been identified such as the enabling of police officers to carry out scientific investigations of accidents,” Ndeitunga said.
A lack of accident investigating skills hinders the Namibian Police when conducting proper investigations of traffic law violations.
“Traffic law enforcement cannot be left to the Namibian Police alone and requires joint efforts by all role-players, because traffic law violations should not be underestimated. I request the ministry of Justice to impose heavy sentences on road accident offenders, especially in cases in which lives are lost. Currently, many road accident offenders are not prosecuted as their cases are simply struck from the court roll,” he charged.
Phillip Amunyela, chairperson of the MVA, was of the opinion that many were the accident victims due to poor or non-investigation of accidents.
“The MVA Fund, as per its mandate, compensates accident victims if they can prove that the driver was at fault or drove recklessly and was to blame for the accident. In an effort to avoid prosecution, many drivers resort to shifting blame on other factors such as tyre bursts, wild animals or mechanical failure, thus depriving many accident victims of much-needed compensation or medical treatment from the Fund. Due to poor investigations, many accident victims failed to prove that drivers were to blame for the cause of accidents,” Amunyela said.
The course was sponsored by the MVA to the tune of N$194??????’??