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Transformation of the road transport system in Zambia

Road traffic accidents have been ranked the 3rd highest cause of death in Zambia after HIV/AIDS and malaria
By Fredrick Mubanga
IN THE past 50 years, the road transport system in Zambia has undergone great transformation, which has come as a result of both political and economic changes. With the political changes came the liberalisation of the road transport sector which gave birth to an increase in the number of vehicles against a limited growth of the road infrastructure. In 2002, the government recognised the need for both institutional and structural reforms in the roads and road transport sub-sectors to address the backlog of road maintenance and the high rate of road traffic crashes in the country.
This recognition in the transport policy transformed the way business would be conducted in the sector by repealing the Road Traffic Commission (RTC) and the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) and establishing the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA), which took all responsibilities of both commissions.
The mandate and responsibility has been bestowed unto the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) under Road Traffic Act No. 11 of 2002, with functions that entail registration and licensing of drivers and motor vehicles and the management and regulation of road traffic in such a manner that road safety is enhanced and consequently reduce road traffic accidents in the country.
In doing this, RTSA pledges to work very closely with the stakeholders, which include the road users, transport service providers and the general public. Information and education are considered important tools for achievement of the RTSA mandate.
This year, the RTSA celebrates eight years of existence as a corporate body. Its aim has been to bring sanity on public roads and provide an efficient road transport service. With this transformation, the Agency is quick to celebrate the emergence of public awareness of road safety and appreciation of safer roads.
The road transport sector has had a great share of this transformation. In early 1995, the GRZ waived duty on importation of minibuses of 14-seater capacity and above to encourage the private sector fill the vacuum in the transport sector.  The response to this tax holiday was overwhelming. There is now more than adequate capacity to meet passenger travel demand and allow for healthy competition among operators.
In 1997 Zambia was among the first within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to introduce the new motor vehicle registration document. Zambia was also among the first four countries within the SADC Region to introduce the computerised driver’s licence card. This measure has contributed more revenue to the Treasury and has helped to reduce fraudulently registered motor vehicles and driver’s licence cards.
During 1999– 2002, the then Ministry of Communication and Transport held international bilateral meetings with its partners within the SADC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (COMESA) regions in order to harmonise road transport practices and procedures in order to facilitate smooth flow of cross border transportation and trade. During this period, Bilateral Road Transport Agreements with South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia and Malawi were signed. A single permit system for both freight and passenger transport between Zambia and Zimbabwe has been introduced.
Zambia has a history of high road traffic accident incidence. Road traffic accidents have been ranked the third highest cause of death in Zambia after HIV and AIDS and malaria. The loss to the country arising from these road traffic accidents is estimated to be in excess of ZMK1.0 billion or slightly more than 3 percent of the national gross domestic product
For the above reason, RTSA will therefore continue to implement road safety activities in order to reduce loss of life on the Zambian roads.
The RTSA has a responsibility to contribute towards inculcating, in a structured manner, a responsible disciplined cadre of road users and thus enhance road safety on our roads. Among the various target groups, schools (schoolchildren) and driving schools (driving learners) are fertile grounds through which a road safety culture can be grown and nurtured.
It is in this view of the latter; a team of experts from the RTSA and the Curriculum Development Centre were tasked to develop Road Safety education books that are to be integrated into the Zambian school curriculum. This exercise has been completed and road safety books are being printed for distribution in various schools across the country. What this means is that road safety education will now be learned as a subject in primary and secondary schools.
Beyond the 50 years, it is the Agency’s vision to attain the most efficient and safe road transport system in the sub-Saharan region
Therefore, as RTSA, we pledge to promote a safe and efficient road transport system for all road users countrywide through stakeholder participation, education, regulation, and traffic law enforcement.
It is no doubt that the modern road traffic enforcement requires surveillance equipment. this year, the Agency will intensify road traffic Enforcement through the procurement of enforcement equipment such as Speed Cameras, area lighting system for rescue services, LED traffic wand, breathalyzers, area lighting systems for road block and accident scenes, electronically, hydraulic traffic accident rescue equipment and toll tracks to be used to sweep out stationed vehicles that pose a great danger to road safety especially on the highways.
The RTSA values government’s commitment towards promoting rood safety. Recently, the Ministry of Transport Works Supply and Communication in Collaboration with the RTSA signed a memorandum of Understating on Road Safety with other Government line Ministries and road Sector Agencies.
The World Bank described the MoU on road safety by Zambia as the first in Africa and a step in the right direction towards reducing road traffic crashes in the country.
As a lead institution in promoting road safety in Zambia, we are equally re-focusing our energies and resources towards eliminating all inappropriate and risky behaviour on public roads.
This entails focusing on the three factors that have been identified as key tools in achieving road safety; engineering, education and enforcement.
In a bid to address the diverse traffic challenges, particularly cases culminating into road traffic crashes, the RTSA in collaboration with the Judiciary and the Lusaka City Council launched the fast-track court on traffic offences.
This is to ensure, among other things, that road traffic matters are dealt with, within a shortest period of time.
It is against this background that Road Transport and Safety Agency and the Judiciary signed a memorandum of understanding to roll out the fast track courts on traffic offences to all the 10 provinces in Zambia. As a way of empowering all road users with road traffic knowledge, the RTSA has embarked on a process of reviewing the Zambia Highway Code so as to meet the dynamicity in road transport sector.
Further, the RTSA conducted countrywide consultative meetings on the revision of the age of drivers.
In view of the latter, the RTSA is undertaking a research into the law and will propose amendments to the provisions of the road Traffic Act on the age of drivers.
The RTSA will conduct countrywide stakeholder’s consultative meetings in order to obtain consensus on the preferred age, specifically that of the drivers driving public service vehicles.
A team of experts from the RTSA and the Curriculum Development Centre was tasked to develop road safety education books that are to be integrated into the Zambian school curriculum.
And government through the Ministry of Education has approved the road safety education books, meaning that road safety education will now be taught as a subject in primary and secondary schools.
With the opening of new corridors such as the link Zambia 8000 road project, the RTSA is conducting surveys to ascertain the depth of understanding matters of road safety in these rural communities.
The rationale of the surveys is to create a basis for road safety education programmes in the rural communities and consequently reduce road traffic accidents on the rural highways.
The agency also recognises the important role that traditional leaders play in the fight against road accidents.
To this effect a road safety education and publicity program has been drawn up to roll out road safety in various chiefdoms across the country.
This year alone, the agency had engaged the House of Chiefs to lobby traditional leaders to put road safety as part of the agenda in their respective chiefdoms.
Further, the Agency had conducted road safety education campaigns with the following traditional leaders: Paramount Chief Mpezeni, Senior Chief Madzimawe, Paramount Chief Kalonga Gawa Undi, paramount Chief Mwata Kazembe, Senior Chief Ndungu and Senior Chief Ishindi.
Others are Chieftainess  Lesa of Mpongwe , Chief Chipepo, Senior Chief Kalindawalo, Chief Mumbi of Eastern Province and chief Bang’ombe.
As a means of improving the road transport system in the country, government introduced the Statutory Instrument No.63 of 2013 of the Road Traffic Act No.11 of 2002 to regulate the colour code for minibuses and taxis.
And as part of improving service delivery, making the roads safer, the Agency has embarked on massive infrastructure development through the construction of new offices.
It is the aim of the agency to ensure that we get as close as possible to the Zambian people in terms of service delivery.
We have realised that because of good policies that government has put in place the number of motor vehicles in the country has also continued to increase
Currently, the vehicle population for Zambia is close to 600,000 registered motor vehicles.
Therefore, as a way ensuring that we meet the growing demand for our service, we plan to establish more stations across the country.
As we celebrate 50 years of Zambia’s independence we should also remember our beloved friends and relatives who have died from road traffic accidents over this period.
We therefore call on all Zambians to join hands and act now to stop road accidents in Zambia. The battle against road crashes can only by won by the engagement of all. Let’s all Act Now to Stop Road Accidents in Zambia.

The author is Information Officer at the Road Transport and Safety Agency