FIRST Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has launched the country’s first ever driver safety training programme targeting women and youths, as part of broad-based measures to reduce road carnage.
She is the patron of the National Transport and Drivers Association (NTDA) and a champion for women and youth empowerment.
The training programme was launched yesterday in Goromonzi, Mashonaland East, and will be run in conjunction with the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ).
The programme will be rolled out in all the country’s provinces.
During the 2019 festive season, the First Lady took it upon herself to visit highways where she personally interacted with drivers and travellers on the need to observe road safety rules.
It is reported that an accident occurs every 15 minutes on Zimbabwean roads, and in some cases leading to loss of life.
The initiative falls in line with various empowerment programmes being rolled out by the First Lady to promote gender equality and women empowerment.
The First Lady said she had been particularly observant, paying close attention to driver attitudes on the roads and had experienced unruly behaviour from some of the drivers.
“Unfortunately, at times it is by those that society would regard as mature,” she said.
“Today, we have gathered here to officially launch a driver training programme where we would like to train youth and women how to drive.
“The quality of drivers we intend to produce is the ideal driver who is courteous, cautious, and responsible.
“The main objective of such a programme is to empower both women and youth in Zimbabwe. We would like to produce competent drivers in order to reduce and even better, to eliminate road carnage in Zimbabwe.”
The First Lady said a fact that could not be ignored, which had been proven by a field study, was that in general, women were tranquil and careful drivers.
“So, in them, we want to impart skills in driving, riding on their natural and God-given composure,” she said.
“As for the male youth, we hope to catch them young and get the best out of them, reconditioning their mindsets and imprinting in them total sobriety on the roads.”
Women, the First Lady observed, were generally good listeners who gave special attention to detail.
Amai Mnangagwa spoke on the need for public service vehicles to be always clean, saying section 11, subsection 2 of Statutory Instrument 134 of 1998 makes it an offence to fail to keep an omnibus in a sanitary condition.
The training programme, Amai Mnangagwa said, sought to create a platform for women who have been marginalised when it comes to careers in driving.
It also aimed at empowering the youth and women to produce competent women who will be proactive in the reduction of road accidents.
The programme is also targeting to produce women drivers who will join the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco).
During the five-day training programme, participants will thoroughly study traffic rules and regulations led by TSCZ, Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) and the Vehicle Inspectorate Department.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza said 10 years ago, Zimbabwe made an unwavering pledge to the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety to reduce road fatalities and injuries by 50 percent by this year.
This goal, he said, was further reaffirmed in annual ministerial performance agreements which enjoined the country to reduce accidents by half from 2010 levels.
“The realisation of this goal is not an event, but a continuous process that calls upon various stakeholders in the transport sector to work as a team,” said Minister Matiza.
“In Zimbabwe, an accident occurs every 15 minutes and in some cases leading to lose of life. While this is by no means uniquely Zimbabwean, the carnage on our roads remains unacceptably high. The number of people who lose life and limb on our roads is, therefore, alarming and the cost to the economy is in excess of three percent of the country’s GDP.
“The said reality has spurred us into action and has inspired us to relook traffic safety on our roads. I would like to thank the First Lady for being the top most national road safety champion.
“As a ministry, we are aware of the gender disparities in the public transport sector and we, therefore, welcome this programme as an innovative way of closing such disparities.”
TSCZ acting chairman Dr Gift Machengete praised the First Lady for initiating what he termed “another promising and pragmatic road safety intervention”.
“Amai, thank you for your continued support, involvement and unequalled desire to find sustainable and effective road safety interventions at national level,” he said.
“This intervention you are launching today and to be replicated in all our provinces throughout the country will go a long way in producing road safety conscious drivers from the ranks of our youths.”
Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs Minister Aplonia Munzverengwi expressed gratitude for the various works being done by the First Lady to promote road safety.
CMED chief executive Mr Davison Mhaka said Easy-Go, a subsidiary of his department, was part of the training programme which sought to empower youths and women and tame the traffic jungle.
He said CMED had to intervene recently following a spate of accidents at Zupco.
“There were 22 accidents,” said Mr Mhaka.
“Three were fatal and we lost 13 innocent lives. Easy-Go had to retest all the 113 Zupco drivers and only 64 passed the first time and the rest are being subjected to theory and practical tests. Those that fail to make the grade will have their contracts terminated.”
Mr Mhaka said they were in the process of installing speed limiters on all inter-city Zupco buses because speed had contributed to most of the accidents.
So far, 80 buses have been attended to while 42 are still outstanding.
Mr Mhaka said all learner drivers who came through the First Lady’s training programme would enjoy some discounts during their driving lessons, while TSCZ is providing them with highway codes.