Whinsley Masara, Chronicle Reporter
PRESIDENT Mugabe has bemoaned the continued loss of lives in road traffic accidents and said a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund is on the cards as a measure of relief to survivors and families of victims.
Speaking at the official opening of the Fifth Session of the Eighth Parliament in Harare yesterday, the President appealed to motorists and other road users to play their part in curbing accidents.
The appeal comes at a time when the Government is expediting consultations that could lead to the creation of a road accident fund.
The fund is meant to assist road accident victims and their families to pay for medical and burial expenses. It was mooted last year after it emerged that an accident occurs every 15 minutes and five people are killed daily on the country’s roads. A majority of the victims struggle to pay for treatment while their relatives face challenges in meeting funeral costs.
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe’s Managing Director Mr Obio Chinyere said consultations on the road accident fund were underway and the issue was urgent.
“The proposal was submitted to Cabinet for consideration and consultations are being made. The establishment of the fund is in line with the United Nations Decade of Road Safety action plan. A levy on fuel or motorists will be introduced among other possible ways to raise money for the fund,” he said.
The initiative will be known as the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund. At least 1 700 people die in road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe annually, while 30 000 are injured every year.
The issue came under the spotlight once again two weeks ago.
Ten First Apostolic Faith Mission church members died on the spot in Kamativi in an accident involving a truck carrying 130 church members.
The 11th person died on admission to hospital and the 12th died last weekend after he had been admitted into the ICU at Mpilo Central Hospital.
The accident also injured 118 church members when the lorry burst a tyre and veered off the road before plunging into a gorge.
The injured victims who are admitted to various hospitals are failing to pay bills.
Their church has struggled to bury their fellow congregants and to purchase medication for the injured. Government assisted with a burial fund of $200 towards each deceased person.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing permanent secretary Engineer George Mlilo said talks on the fund were being expedited.
“Once the death toll of a road traffic accident gets to 10, Government assists with funding of $200 towards their burial but in some cases it is not enough.
The injured would also need medical fund assistance. With this special fund, such needs would be easily catered for.
“If the Kamativi accident victims had been injured in a public transport vehicle, they would have been insured by the transporter but in this case this was private transport, where probably the owner of the vehicle cannot afford to take care of all these needs.”
“As Government we were able to assist only the bereaved families leaving the injured to other players. It is at such times where the importance of the road accident fund is recognised,” he said.
An official from a local insurance company said when a public passenger vehicle with passenger insurance is involved in an accident, the owner of the vehicle fully compensates the passengers through his or her insurance company.
“We compensate the family of the deceased passengers with $2 000 each and $350 or more for injured passengers. As long as the claim comes to us, we definitely release the compensation funds within 14 days,” said the official.
“However, we always advise members of the public to use public passenger transport like buses which usually have a full passenger insurance to avoid difficulties such as those which are now being faced by the Kamativi- Binga accident victims,” she said.