EDITORIAL COMMENT: Curbing highway accidents now lies with villagers

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The erection of a 162km fence on either side of the Bulawayo-Gweru Highway might fail to achieve its intended objective which is to reduce road accidents as long as villagers living along the highway leave gates open.

The project undertaken by the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe at a cost of $500 000, is the first phase of the project to fence off major highways to prevent livestock from straying onto the highways. What is worrying is that a few months after the completion of the erection of the fence on this stretch of the highway, we are witnessing an increasing number of cattle and donkeys straying onto the highway. It seems villagers are leaving the gates open at night resulting in cattle and donkeys straying onto the highway.

A number of accidents involving animals are being witnessed on the highway which is supposed to be animal free given the amount of investment meant to prevent livestock from straying onto the highway. Yesterday morning, there was a carcass of a beast which must have been hit by a truck near Charlet, about 60 km from Bulawayo. Motorists and members of the public thought following the completion of the fencing project, accidents which were prevalent between Bulawayo and Gweru would now be a thing of the past but it seems this is not the case because of some careless individuals.

We have said in the past that Community leaders such as village heads, and councillors should put mechanisms in place to enforce the new system of ensuring gates are kept closed all the time to prevent accidents that may lead to loss of human lives and livestock and we don’t believe that was done given the number of stray animals seen on this highway on a daily basis.

Many motorists are under the impression that there are no stray animals on this stretch of the highway only to find themselves driving into a herd of cattle or some donkeys. The Bulawayo-Harare highway which is the best in terms of navigability following the completion of the $206 million refurbishment of the Plumtree-Mutare highway, should record a drastic drop in accidents between Gweru and Bulawayo as a result of the fencing.

The highway between Bulawayo and Harare recorded 569 fatal road accidents in 2016 which was the highest in the country and this must have prompted the TSCZ to prioritise it under its project to fence off highways. We want to once again implore villagers who are supposed to benefit from the project to fence off highways to ensure their cattle or donkeys are kept inside the fence.

There is urgent need for TSCZ to embark on campaigns to educate villagers living along the Bulawayo- Gweru Highway on the importance of keeping the gates closed to prevent their cattle and donkeys from straying onto the highway. The villagers, in our view, seem not to appreciate TSCZ’s efforts to reduce road accidents hence this unwarranted negative attitude.