Same team, new coach
Cabinets have been reshuffled and we now have a new transport coach and deputy. Will they get back to basics and take heed of the real issues to improve road safety?
We have a new coach. In fact, we have a new assistant coach too. In typical South African style, when you lose a big one, the coaching staff gets it in the neck first. In this case, I think they got it in the back: blind-sided by the e-tolling saga. The tribe has spoken.
Now the fun starts all over again, and I must say that while the transport portfolio might not be the most prestigious in cabinet, it is one of the largest and most diverse. One minute you’re talking seagulls, the next, train spotters.
The new incumbents in the Transport Ministry are no doubt finding the learning curve rather steep, and the pressure is going to get worse – just with trying to deal with road transport issues alone.
Already, the deputy minister has voiced her concern about the road death toll while the minister has spoken about transport infrastructure and integrated public transport. But, for me, the issue goes beyond that.
For years now, there has been a call for a responsible person at cabinet level to take charge of road safety in South Africa. We thought we had that person in Jeremy Cronin. Unfortunately, I don’t think he was allowed to contribute his vast knowledge to the department, or most likely, simply was not asked to by those who should have.
Is this an opportunity to clean the slate and start anew? I suppose it is, but we really don’t need a fresh start.
What we need is action on the things that were spoken about, strategised and maybe even planned. To date (14 months since the launch), the Decade of Action for Road Safety strategy has not been revealed to all and sundry. I would hate to think that this was intentional. No strategy means no plan – which obviously means no action. Does the strategy actually exist?
I really do hope that Minister Ben Martins and his deputy, Ms Sindi Chikunga, take the time to speak and listen to as many road safety specialists as they can. And that they then go and do the same thing with their constituents. Understand the issues, act on them and make a difference.
A simple course of action at the most basic level would be a great way to start – even if it seems like a silly idea at the time. Look what has happened in Cape Town with the cell-phone by-laws. A few phones were confiscated, and behaviour changed virtually overnight. Silly idea? It worked!
Enforce the laws that can save lives – like seatbelts and child restraints. It is that simple.
Don’t worry about e-tolling. That’s the Minister of Finance’s headache.
SKID MARKS is a regular column in which Gary Ronald presents his personal and sometimes jaundiced view on transport, safety and mobility. Ronald has a wealth of experience in these fields has presented numerous papers both locally and internationally. He’s been with the AA since 2000 and is currently its head of public affairs. All comments published here reflect his own opinion, and not that of the AA. FOCUS appreciates his witty, topical and sometimes irreverent stance on the industry. If you’d like to respond to whatever punches he throws, visit www.focusontransport.co.za.