Worldwide, over 1.2.million people die annually as a result of road crashes. In Swaziland, an average of 222 people, die on the country’s road annually. This figure warrants an aggressive programme to counter the trends since without any interventions the country can lose a significant portion of the human population which is currently at 1.4 million.
Since the inception of the road safety programme in 1983, the country has employed several strategies to calm the escalating number of road traffic injuries. The interventions have adhered to the three components of road safety which are namely education, enforcement and road safety audits. It has been a reality though that between the years 1999 and 1996, the road crashes trends peaked to its highest and only dropped slightly after the initiation of an aggressive programme by the road safety stakeholders. From the year 2000, the escalation of road crashes has challenged road safety stakeholders to re strategize and be focused in order to reap the intended goals.
The Inception of the Road Safety Stakeholder Alliance
The idea of an alliance was first mooted during the road safety Indaba hosted by Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund in September 2010. The Indaba was a follow up to a study that was conducted by Sincephetelo, which sought to identify the causes of Road Accidents in Swaziland. Its necessity (Alliance) was further motivated by Cabinet at the beginning of the year 2011. The rationale behind the formation of such an organisation was the fact that the Road Safety Stakeholders have to merge efforts and thrive to bring down the number of road crashes along the country’s public roads. Upon the birth of the idea, stakeholders were motivated to run complimentary programmes which have a bearing to making a quick impact on the accident reduction initiative.
The Composition of the Road Safety Stakeholders Alliance
The Swaziland Road Safety Council is the lead agency on road safety matters in the country, as mandated by the Road Safety Act of 1983. The other organizations were singled out through an intensive study of the road accident statistics and hence the accident causes and likely interventions. On that note, the following organizations are founding members of the Safety Stakeholders Alliance: Sincephetelo Motor vehicle Accidents Fund (post crash care), Royal Swaziland Police Service (enforcement), Council of Smoking and Drugs –COSAD (drugs and alcohol abuse and driving), Swaziland Beverages (Drink Driving), Ministry of Health and Social Welfare - Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (post crash care), Swaziland Epilepsy Organization (Epilepsy and Driving), Driving Schools Organisation (Driver Training, Testing and Endorsement) and Local Kombi Association (Safety of Public Service Transport).
Other organizations that are very important in reinforcing the performance of the Alliance are the World Health Organization, SCARTA and the Swaziland Tourism Authority. These organizations have officially been invited to participate in all the alliance’s activities.
Since January 2011, the Alliance has met on numerous occasions at the Swaziland Water Services Corporation to plan and execute its programmes. Thanks to SMVAF for reliable sponsorship in securing the venue throughout the year. Also worth noting in this regard, the Swaziland Beverages offered venue and refreshments during one of the Alliance’s planning meetings. The reputable beverage company has also pledged to avail its venue for future meetings
Proposed National Road Safety Strategic Plan
Following the recommendations of the United Nations, the Road Safety Stakeholders Alliance has resolved to come up with a National Road Safety Strategic Plan for enabling a well planned programme throughout the year. Technical assistance has been sought from the World Health \organization and the Global Road Safety Partnership, respectively. The Alliance is currently awaiting response from these international organisations. The priority option is to engage a consultant through these organizations. The alliance will then collaborate with the consultant in drafting the National Road Safety Strategy and for aligning it with the Decade of Action 2011 – 2020. This will be done in consideration of the five pillars of the proposed road safety action plan namely: Road Safety Management, Safe Infrastructure, Safe Vehicles, Safe Road Users and post crash care.
Regional Road Safety Road Show 2011
After several planning meetings, the Alliance opted to pilot some of the ideas in order to weigh the viability of the proposed road safety programmes. The road shows marked the first activities that were earmarked for entrenching responsible road user behaviour among the citizenry. Four road shows were held in the four major towns and cities of the country namely: Manzini, Mbabane, Nhlangano and Siteki. The Road shows were strategically scheduled through the year 2011 between April and November 2011. The main sponsor for all the road shows was the SMVA Fund.The Road Shows were indeed a success as they reached out to almost all the road users (Pedestrians, Passengers and Drivers) with their calming theme: (YOU HAVE ONLY ONE LIFE TO LIVE, ACT RESPONSIBLY WHILE USING THE ROAD). The Honourable Minister of Public Works and Transport, Ntuthuko Dlamini was the guest speaker in almost all the road shows, except in Mbabane, where the Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Themba Nhlanganiso Masuku was representing His Excellency the Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini.
Launching the Decade of Action for Road Safety on the 11 May 2011
As part of the Global Road safety action, the country also took part in launch the life saving campaign on the 11 May 2011. This launch was officiated by the Minister of Public Works & Transport, Honourable Ntuthuko Dlamini and the World Health Organization’s country representative, Dr. Owen Kaluwa. During the launch, it was spelt out clearly that the action will be aligned into the National Road safety Strategic Plan which the Alliance is still pursuing at this stage.
Consultations with the Roads Department on Road Safety improvements
A special meeting was held at the Happy Valley Motel mainly for consulting with the Roads department on Road safety improvements that have to be effected along the roads engineers. The Alliance was also alerted on channels that have to be followed when reporting some cases involving the roads department.
Participation at the Swaziland Cycling Association Activities
The Alliance participated at the cycling association event which was held at Mafutseni on the 20th May 2011. Stickers and Banners were displayed with Road Safety messages promoting responsible sharing of the road between road users.
Public Service Drivers Workshops 2011
Workshops were held in 8 (eight) centres all over the country. In the Hhohho region, the workshops were held in Mbabane, Piggs Peak and Buhleni. In Manzini region, they were conducted in Manzini town, Mankayane and faulted at Mliba. In Sheselweni, Nhlangano, Hlathikulu and Hluthi were able to host the workshops.
All workshops were scheduled during the evening to enable the drivers to attend without fail. The advantage of workshops is that it promotes more interaction between the drivers and enforcers. The drivers and owners expressed their desire for more workshops in the year 2012.
Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force Driver Training Workshop
The workshops were held at St. Georges Barracks on the 15th of November, 2011. SMVAF and the Road Safety Council were able to render lessons meant to sensitise the drivers of their responsibilities while using the country’s roads
Swaziland Water Services Corporation Fleet Drivers Workshop
The workshops were meant for the company’s employees. It was held over two (2) days in the second week of November 2011. Drivers equipped on defensive driving, vehicle road worthiness, post crash care, which includes Motor vehicle Accident Fund operations.
Media Campaigns (Radio programmes, Television programmes, Print Media, and Outdoor Adverts or Billboards
Throughout the year, the Alliance has had an opportunity of advertising on electronic and print media. At some point, special feature programmes were aired on radio and television particularly under the invitation of the different media
Towards the end of the year, the Alliance held a business breakfast meeting with members of the media. The Commissioner of Police was also invited to be part of the meeting, as the police instrumental in enforcing traffic law. Members of the media got to appreciate the composition and activities of the Alliance. In addition to that, it was announced that the road accident occurrence had declined in the year 2011.
Compared to the past, the Christmas campaign strictly focused the media campaign instead of the usual information centres. Notably, the Minister of Public Works and Transport Honourable Ntuthuko Dlamini recorded television and radio adverts on the 7th of November 2011 and they were flighted for the whole of December.
The Swaziland Road Safety Council settled the bill. To compliment the Minister’s statement the SMVA Fund also ran a media campaign that sensitised road users about safety while using the road during the festive season.
The Swaziland Beverages initiated an exclusive campaign against drunk driving. Kombis were branded and routed from different entertainment spots along the Manzini Mbabane corridor. Vehicle owners, who had consumed alcohol beverages and were deemed above the legal limit to driver, were allowed to board the minibuses free of charge. Despite the vigilance of the Police and the arrest of 80 drunk- drivers on the Christmas weekend, the Free-Ride campaign was a success as it focused on the awkward hours when accidents occurred most. This was proven by the figure declined to 50% in the following week and gradually decreased to 34 in the third week into January 2012.
Overall, the Christmas campaign was a success since only four (4) fatals were recorded during the period between the 23rd and 31st of December 2011. The four people can be split as follows: 1 driver 2 passengers and 1 pedestrian.