Eswatini Daily News

By Silindzelwe Nxumalo

The carnage on the country’s road is bleeding the government dry. Since the year 2021, the government has spent a staggering E1.6 billion due to road traffic accidents. The latest figures released on Monday by Minister of Public Works and Transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe through his Principal Secretary Thulani Mkhaliphi painted a gloomy picture.

In a space of just six months, over 2 274 road accidents have been reported between January to June 2023 with 105 leading to fatal accidents and 374 leading to serious injuries.

Ndwandwe revealed the statistics during the Ministry’s high-level meeting on road safety held at Royal Villas, Ezulwini. It was during the same meeting that the Center of Excellence for Road Safety’s Wiseman Nyembe revealed that road traffic accidents went beyond causing human suffering as they also impose a heavy toll on the country’s economy.

“Quite a lot of the country’s GDP is taken by road traffic accidents. That is E1.6 billion, which looks small but it could be used to develop other sectors of the country. This is quite substantial in terms of the losses in the economy. Road crashes resulted in significant human and economic costs,” he said.

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Nyembe mentioned in 2016 it was reported that there were 203 fatal accidents however WHO reported that they were 361 fatalities and this discrepancy raises serious concerns about the true extent of the problem.

“The centre is here help harmonies the figures that are reported and the figures that are reported and figures that agencies like WHO are reporting,” he said.

He mentioned when translating these numbers we are confronted with an extremely high rate which translates to 26.9 per cent road traffic fatalities per 100 000 population in Eswatini in 2016 and the global average is at 18 per cent.

“This means we are really way behind in terms of performing. The most concern is the fact that a disproportionate 81 per cent of those killed in road accidents belongs to economically active who are between the ages of 15 to 64 years and this is the highest cost of these accidents because that is where the future in terms of economy is,” he said.

He added that these numbers painted a clear picture of the size and the stake of road safety challenges in the country as each life lost on the roads not only represents a personal tragedy but also does a significant blow to national progress and prosperity.

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“In the past 13 years that the road safety council has been collecting data which had shown that the fatalities, despite interventions made by the country, we are still staying around the 200 mark on the number of fatalities. This means we still need to do more in terms of dealing with the issue of fatalities,” he said.

Nyembe also mentioned that as an attempt to put a quantum in as to how much the fatal accidents cost the country, the centre went to the Cost of Crashes model developed by the CSIR which has been used for years and was adapted to the country’s requirements.

“The data that we got from publicly available reports we feed that to the cost of crashes matrix together with adjustments and computed the total costs. The adjustment factors involved human casualty costs, vehicle repair costs, incident costs and there are some elements involved in each,” he said.

He said through the model they found that in 2021 the total cost of road accidents was at E1.28 billion which meant that 88 per cent was from the human casualty costs which was E916 million, 64 per cent was due to fatalities, E61 Million belonged to vehicle repair costs and 83 million was from incident costs.

“This is a very high level and we are inclined to say that it is worse than this because a lot of data was not available at the time this report was prepared,” said Nyembe.

He further added that there was another cost which was much higher than all other costs which is the hidden costs that victims and families incurred.

“What is worth noting is that 90 per cent of the total costs of road accidents in the country are incurred by the victims and their loved ones in terms of premiums, lost productivity, medical bills and the impact on the victims,” he said.

He said it was difficult to put this type of loss in monetary terms and this was a sign that there was a need for urgent attention and decisive interventions to address these issues.

“The private sector and public enterprises can implement safe fleet policies, perform routine vehicle checks, and support road safety research and advocacy campaigns. We need to be international about these contributions and let’s work together to solve this problem,” he encouraged.

Minister Ndwandwe said globally, 1.3 million people are killed on the roads and 50 million of them would be seriously injured or disabled for life.

“In Eswatini between January and June, we have had 2274 traffic crashes in six months. Out of these 105 were fatal and 374 were serious and leading to disabilities,” he said.

He said these figures were very alarming as it was very sad to lose a loved one and also very sad to get a loved one involved in an accident to the point where they are physically disabled.

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“The most important thing that we need to do as a nation is to reduce the number of road accidents. In the strategy we have set targets on how we can achieve this,” he said.

The minister added that what was most disturbing about these figures was that the road accidents in most cases take people who are economically active in the country.

“In Eswatini of the figures we have 41 per cent are young adults aged between 25 to 39 years who are involved in fatalities,” he said.

He further stated that the country was in a serious crisis as there was so much that needed to be done in order to ensure that the adopted new national road safety strategy was known to all relevant stakeholders.

“To all ministries, we appeal that you try and ensure that this strategy is internalized to ensure that everyone is work-shopped on this strategy. Our parastatals need this as most of the cars in the country are from them. Let’s take this strategy with us and use it,” he said

The minister said the issues of road safety had been ongoing and they needed to do things differently and start doing things differently.

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“Even though we are in the second decade of road safety people kept on dying and affected by road accidents directly and indirectly until the United Nations said let’s make road safety a development issue, at the core of development. It is also part of the SDGs in the country,” he said.

He said as Eswatini they then saw the need to take a step forward and raise hands to develop a strategy.

“This strategy is the first national road safety strategy for Eswatini and was launched in June. It gives us a clear pathway and clear identification of the problem. Where exactly is the problem and how do we intend to solve it? The problem is that people are dying from road accidents every day,” said Ndwandwe.

He said the development of the strategy had been a long journey for the road safety council.

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