STATEMENT ON THE USE OF TOYOTA HIACE MINIBUSES AND OTHER UNSUITABLE FORMS OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT BY THE DIRECTOR AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER – ROAD TRANSPORT AND SAFETY AGENCY (R.T.S.A)
13TH OCTOBER, 2017
MEMBERS OF THE PRESS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
Zambia has one of the highest accident rates in the world and relatively high on the African continent due to various initiatives that are not in place and government is concerned with the scenario we as the Road Transport and Safety Agency are a means to make things work better.
I hereby wish to clarify to the nation the wrong message being sent to the general public in various sectors of the society.
The Road Transport and Safety Agency (R.T.S.A) made a proposal to government among other things to ban the importation of second hand tyres, the restriction in vehicle age for importation, importation and appropriate use of the types of buses for our local routes.
The proposal on the importation of second hand tyres was received and the Ministry of Transport and Communications guided that we form a technical committee to ensure that we maintain the importation , but with standards that will be guided by ZABs who are the custodians of the standards in Zambia and are part of the committee of other stakeholders that have been engaging in looking at the proposal on vehicle age limit for importation and the technical committee is looking into the matter before a final decision can be made.
The process includes a string of wide consultation programs that are being designed for passengers to be able to have a standard for purposes of safety and comfort for all commuters as the current form of buses for local routes is not suitable.
A statutory instrument was issued that all vehicles in the country including Hiace buses should have seatbelts by 4th June 2017. However, the Ministry of Transport and Communications extended the implementation of the SI to January 2019.
This is to allow the Ministry of Transport and Communications too engage other stakeholders such as Ministry of Finance and ZRA so that a tax relief could be offered to those that are importing buses with seat belts.
Further the proposal includes a named model of a bus which the country should adapt with all stakeholders being involved.
After that the RTSA will continue, as indicated in its proposal to systematically phase out the current buses in a manner that instead of being deprived of benefit operators should be empowered by being able to own these buses as operators and as drivers through a scheme that will enable them import these buses at a relatively reasonable price and affordable like the current scenario is on purchase of Hiace buses.
We intend to look for a model that will allow the “buy off” of these Hiace mini buses from individuals or owners to enable them purchase the model which will be agreed as a standard for the country.
Further, members of the public may wish to understand that we are coming from the liberalization of the economy in 1991 where we did not have proper standards for our transport system and we have lived with this challenge for many years. I want to dispel unfounded and inconsistent assertions out there that we want the HIACE minibuses abolished immediately.
This is going to be done in a well-coordinated and cost effective manner and to further note that you cannot correct a 30 year old problem in a day, week, month or year but in a gradual and systematic transition over a period of time.
If facilitation is made for you as member to buy a better, comfortable, durable and safe bus at almost the same cost that you buy a panel van and fabricate seats why not go for the better option.
The reasons for such a proposal is for the safety and comfort of our commuters. You may be aware that vehicles without seatbelts increase the chances of people dying in an event of an accident, the leg room, the head room on these buses poses challenges to commuters and greater challenges to our physically challenged commuters.
When there is a crash passengers are killed as a result of the nature of the buses which are used to carry building material and cargo in other countries that we import them from. It shall however be noted that as long as those people with Hiace buses manage to put seatbelts, they will be allowed on the road until when the changeover period of time stabilizes then we will phase them out at no cost to owners of these buses. What we are talking about is a scenario where vehicles without seatbelts are on the road.
As the Road Transport and Safety Agency we are proposing lower or no taxes on these importations for a reasonable period of time so that the public can be given incentives to be able to afford the purchase of brand new and relatively new second hand motor vehicles because with the massive road infrastructure projects like the Link Zambia 8000, Zambian citizens deserve better forms of transport.