NDANGWA MWITTAH, Choma
THE law is clear, but what is not is whether the people living on the Livingstone road know anything about it.
“Subject to the provisions of subsection (2), no person shall leave or permit any animal to be on any road which is fenced or enclosed in any other manner along both sides, and no person shall leave any such animal in a place from which it may stray on to such road,” reads section 209 (1) of the Road Traffic Act of 2002.
This particular piece of legislation looks at the management of animals on and also around the road.
But does it apply to people living on the Mazabuka- Livingstone road? If you have driven on the road, then you may like to think that it does not.
“We bring our animals here because it’s closer to our homes. Most of the areas around here are private farms and the owners can be strict sometimes,” says Derrick Simweemba, 32, a cattle herder of Harmony, in Batoka area in Choma.
That is the only explanation Simweemba is able to give when asked why his animals are made to graze near the road, which is not only against the law but also inconveniences motorists.
For Christopher Miyoba, 41, a father of six, who lives in the same area, his only concern is to see an increase in his herd of cattle.
“I am a farmer and these animals have helped me in many ways. From these five, I hope they will keep increasing with time,” he says.
Well, for most people in this granary part of the country, farming is their livelihood. But unlike their counterparts in other regions, livestock is also part and parcel of their livelihoods.
In fact, their wealth is counted in terms of livestock.
Section 209 (1) of the Road Traffic Act of 2002 may not mean much to them; except perhaps to the motorists who feel the inconvenience.
“Big man, this road and animals, you simply have no idea,” says Abel Mulenga, 38, a driver for one of the inter-town bus operators.
“To be honest, driving on this road is not always nice. As a driver, you have to be very careful and keep looking out for animals. You never know where it pops out from.
“Just somewhere after Monze, my friend hit two cows and overturned like no man’s business. He was lucky to have survived. He was traveling alone, on his way to pick up his family in Livingstone. Imagine what would have happened had his family been with him? This issue is actually real.”
The traffic authorities in Southern Province are aware of this problem having recorded a number of accidents involving animals and motor vehicles.
“We have had a lot of cases of this nature. Many are times when these animals are left uncared for and end up on the road. Sometimes they just stray on the road and end up causing an accident,” says Florence Nyirenda, a road safety educator at the divisional police command in the province.
She says her office is committed to ensuring the trend is minimised.
But the provincial minister is already acting; he recently issued a warning to farmers in the province to ensure cattle does not graze near the road as this is not just an offence but also a danger to both property and human life.
In the company of officers from the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) and the Zambia Police traffic section, Edify Hamukale at one time drove to Batoka area to go and educate farmers on the dangers of allowing their animals near the road.
“As Government, we are very concerned with the behaviour of our farmers here. They let their animals graze very near the roads. This is very dangerous to both the owners of the animals and to the motorists,” Dr Hamukale says.
“It is actually an offence to do so. There is plenty of sufficient grazing land further from the road but we don’t know why people prefer the roadside. It is very dangerous and they must desist.”
The agency believes there is a lot of ignorance regarding the management of animals, and this problem is not unique to Southern Province but is countrywide.
“The Act is clear on that matter. A person in charge of an animal on a road shall attend to it in such a manner that it does not constitute to an obstruction or danger to any other traffic; and any failure to comply with the provisions of Section 209 is an offence,” says RTSA head of public relations Frederick Mubanga.
“It’s not just in Southern Province actually. It seems people don’t really know that we [RTSA], together with the police, have the powers to actually penalise them for not only putting their property, animals in this case, and also motorists, at risk.”
The agency now plans to engage the communities through their respective traditional leaders and sensitise them on the dangers of grazing animals close to the road.
RTSA Choma station manager Moses Nyundu says his office will soon embark on a campaign, together with the police in the region, to sensitise people on matters to do with road safety.
“These farmers should be taking care of their animals. We value livestock too, but when it starts coming closer to the road to interfere with traffic, then it becomes a problem,” he says.
Perhaps, the engagement with the communities should be countrywide.