Current Road Safety Campaigns: Minister of Transport on success and challenges

This premium content has been made freely available


11 June 2013
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Road Traffic Management Corporation was commended by Members on the work done which was actually yielding results after much talk of failed turnaround strategies before.

The Ministry emphasised that the functions of the Road Traffic Management Corporation were national, and worked in conjunction with the provinces to assist with their road safety programmes and also import and export best practises from one province to another. The Road Traffic Management Corporation did not exist for any function of a particular province.

The Deputy Minister of Transport said that the effects of alcohol abuse were visible on the roads of South Africa. In understaffed municipalities with officers working from morning to the evening it was necessary to weigh the cost of paying the officers overtime or hiring more officers in future versus the cost of lives lost or people ending up in hospitals.

The Minister of Transport said that majority of provinces did not have traffic officers between 22:00 and 06:00, expect for the Western Cape where there were officers on duty. That needed to happen throughout the country to help bring down the number of accidents on the roads.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation stated that by 2015 the country planned to halve the number of fatalities. The main contributing provinces to the death toll were KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Also, it needed to be noted that important standards were not met in some instances.

When the breathalyser was ruled not permissible in court it was a set back for the prosecution of drunk drivers and getting them off the roads. Blood tests took longer and prosecution was difficult due to the actual testing process.

Corruption came up on many occasions both at vehicle and at driver testing stations, together with the issue of capacity of the Road Traffic Management Corporation. The Corporation had great programmes to introduce. However were the resources to implement such programmes sufficient?

With the reports of gruesome accidents that had become more frequent, the Committee spoke on the importance of having laws to govern the vehicles allowed to carry passengers and those that were not.

Meeting report

Mr L Suka (ANC) stood in on behalf of the Chairperson who joined the meeting later due to another meeting.

The Committee would be briefed by the Ministry on the challenges and success of the current road safety campaigns. It was a topical matter as accidents occurred on a daily basis in the country. Road safety strategies needed to be constantly improved to combat fatalities on roads.

The Hon. Benedict Martins, Minister of Transport, told the Committee that whenever it was possible either he or the Deputy Minister would make all attempts to attend meetings but due to schedules when neither of them was present, they had parliamentary liaison officers who reported to them to keep abreast to the issues raised by Members of Parliament.

The Minister said that it was an unfortunate reality that road fatalities, throughout the world, were among the leading causes of unnatural death. 40 people died per day due to road accidents, and that figure meant 14 000 people per annum were killed on South Africa's roads. The figure was unacceptably high, the causes had to be interrogated and also what had to be done to mitigate the situation and bring down the number of road fatalities. There were also greater social and economic costs that went beyond the numbers of fatalities, for instance children lost their parents.

Various contributing factors to road accidents included negligence, behaviour of drivers, vehicle and road conditions, alcohol abuse, jaywalking, exceeding speed limits and not wearing seatbelts. The human factor contributed to 82% in accidents

As a result of a greater degree of visibility during the festive season, Easter and other long weekends, when, in conjunction with provinces, 17 000 traffic officers were put on the road, statistics proved that the number of accidents and fatalities had come down. The numbers had only increased at local government level in townships, rural roads and suburbs; therefore in future greater attention needed to be paid at that level. 

Another problem was that of testing grounds, where at various vehicle testing authorities in various provinces there were corrupt officers and where non-road worthy vehicles were issued with road worthy certificates. Those vehicles would eventually be involved in accidents that would add to the tally of accidents on roads. The Department planned to visit the testing grounds in all provinces, unannounced and see the state of affairs for itself. The full might of the law would follow those individuals as they contributed to the number of fatalities on the roads.

Road Management Corporation (RTMC) presentation
Mr Collins Letsoalo, RTMC Acting CEO, reported that in comparison an increase in the number of fatalities of 1.45% was recorded between 2009 and 2010. A decrease of 0.1% was recorded between 2010 and 2011. From the year 2007 to 2011, pedestrians had higher fatalities, followed by passengers and then drivers. Three out of the nine provinces recorded a decrease or no change in the number of fatalities; this was with the exception of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

In the age group 0 to 4 and 10 to 14 the percentage of fatalities ranged from 2.7% to 5.1% for 2009 and 2011. The 15 to 19 age group had a higher percentage of 6% which was likely attributed to the fact that some members of this group were of driving age and possibly drinking.

The contributing factors in accidents were circumstantial elements that were present at the time of the crash and were generally classified under three main categories: human behaviour, vehicle conditions, roadway, and the environment. The human factor contributed to 82.85% of fatal crashes during 2009 and 84.91% in 2010. Vehicle factor contribution decreased from 9.13% in 2009 to 5.79% in 2010. The road and environment contributed 8.02% in 2009 and 9.3% in 2010.

The leading human factors were the driver failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to keep vehicle under control, and overtaking when it was unsafe. The top two leading vehicle factors were tyre bursts and inadequate vehicle maintenance. The top three leading factors for road and environment were lack of traffic lights, poor condition of the road surface, and inadequate road signs.

Almost a quarter (23.97%) of the weekly crashes happened on a Saturday, and 60.14% of all fatal crashes happened over weekends from Friday to Sunday during  2010. With the exception of Sunday and Thursday, the other days recorded an increase in this regard. Furthermore, most crashes occurred between 16h00 to 22h00.

The number of fatalities per 10,000 registered motorised vehicles decreased by 0.20 (1.22%) from 16.22 during 2009 to 16.02 during 2010. The number of fatalities per 100 000 human population increased by 0.03 (0.09%) from 27.91 during 2009 to 27.94 during 2010 and decreased by 0.36 (1.27%) in 2011 to 27.58. With the exception of Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, all other Provinces recorded decreases in this regard.

The RTMC had a number of road safety programmes currently running, namely, Scholar Patrol, Safe Kids walk this Way (to be launched in 2014, targeting rural schools), Participatory Educational Techniques, National School Debate Competition, Professional Driving Programme, Junior Training Traffic Centres, National Rolling Enforcement Plan, Operation Tshwara Setagwa, “Get there. No regrets” campaign, National Traffic Anti-Corruption Unit (with Leihlo, targeting corrupt traffic officials) and Photovoice.

There were also measures to address South Africa’s ranking in the 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety by World Health Organisation namely;

The Provincial Deployment of National Traffic Police which was an intervention unit to assist provincial and local authorities with law enforcement in hazardous locations.

Photovoice which would capture the reality (risks) of the pedestrian environment learners faced in their community through photography and engagements.

365 days Road Safety Programme which aimed to integrate the efforts of all the Transport Agencies involved in road safety with the goal of minimising resources and maximising effort. Also, to eliminate duplication of efforts on road safety matters and have sustainable road safety programmes throughout the year.

Model school zones used the safety star ratings tool to star rate roads around schools and generate safety countermeasure plans.

The “Woza Re-Test” Campaign intended to suspend the driving license of any driver who was found guilty by a court of law.

Name and Shame Campaign aimed to reduce the incidence of habitual offenders by shaming them on public platforms.

“Operation Juggernaut” would enforce the road traffic act on all public transport vehicles (freight and passenger) in respect of vehicle safety, driver safety, load management and documentation.

Driver Wellness Campaign would introduce medical examinations at road-sides, truck-stops, weighbridges and toll gates for public transport (passenger and freight vehicle) drivers.

International Road Assessment Programme would inspect the high-risk roads, risk mapping, develop star rating and safer roads investment plans.

Crash Information Management System aimed to develop and implement a standardised crash recording and management system across the country.

Proposed National Traffic Training Academy planned to establish a National Traffic Academy that could capacitate officials beyond the current basic training programmes with specific focus on specialised training courses.

National Road Traffic Law Enforcement Code (NRTLEC) would harmonize and standardize road traffic law enforcement practices by traffic authorities across the three spheres of government.

RTMC was affiliated with and had partnerships with international bodies such as UN Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC), International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), International Road Traffic and Data Group (IRTAD), UNICR, Safekids World-wide, and ITEC.

Mr G Krumbock (DA) asked for clarity on the implementation of the interventions programmes to bring down road fatalities, like “One officer one drunkard a month”. He asked if the Department had, through various measures, increased the number of staff or taken additional resources to do these, or has there been a reprioritisation of existing people and diverting them from other work that they normally did to give emphasis to the intervention programmes. If it was a case of reprioritisation why was it not possible to implement now and not earlier.

The presentation also mentioned variance between provinces regarding getting road fatalities under control. The Western Cape had seen a decline in the number of fatalities; the programme in the province had been effective and reduced fatality by 31% in the last few months and 33% in the last year. It was obvious that the programme was working and people of the Western Cape knew not to take a chance and drive while they were intoxicated and should they drive drunk it was more likely that they would be caught than not. This had extended beyond the Western Cape to the Northern Cape, where there were always visible traffic officers; drivers did not speed, drink and drive or use their cellphones while driving as they knew they would be caught.

Mr Krumbock said he would like to see programmes implemented throughout the country that were successful regardless of where they emanated from. He asked if the Department had a multi-party approach where programmes that were successful were identified and could easily be transferable to other provinces, as it would be 'incredible' to reduce fatalities by 30% nationally.

The Minister said that, when he and the Deputy Minister were given their current duties, they encountered (based on previous reports) a high degree of vacancies and the high use of consultants. Therefore they took it as the first key responsibility to ensure that the various branches of the Department were fit for purpose, and had the required staff component to carry out the functions and responsibility. The Deputy Minister chaired a Strategic Management Committee, which met twice a month, where the Deputy Directors of the Department come together to look at challenges within their branches and ways to mitigate them. The Department and its entities were synergising the number of warm bodies needed to give expression to the responsibility they had.

There were variances in the performance in provinces, which was attributed to the composition of the different provinces. Gauteng and the Western Cape were urban with semi urban rural areas, and the Eastern Cape on the other hand was predominantly rural.  The level of performance would, therefore, not be the same due to the structural make-up and rate of development in the various provinces.

The issue of using the best practise throughout the country was an important one. There was a national structure (MINMEC) that was attended by the ministry in conjunction with the nine provinces. What the structure sought to encourage was the use of the best practice regardless of the province the programme came from. 

Mr Letsoalo said that one of the forums was the Road Traffic Management Coordinating Committee that was chaired by the RTMC, but there were also provincial ones that the municipalities sat in, in order to find and formulate the system of best practise.

Mr I Ollis (DA) asked for clarity on the figures that the presenter noted as preliminary as they should be final by now and also for clarity on the number of vehicles to be traced. Also the Medical Research Council report did not agree with RTCM figures by a considerable amount. There was a discrepancy of 3 000 fatalities for 2009 in the reports; RTCM figures were lower than those of the Medical Research Council. RTCM results were based on police statistics and the Medical Research Council report was based on the number of bodies in morgues.

Mr Ollis expressed concern that it took a year to get blood results. The person could not be held until his or her results were released, and the individual could be driving drunk on a regular basis. For instance there was a case where the individual was arrested seven times for drunk driving; he had still not been persecuted nor been to court.

Also, was there a programme or strategy to find and get rid of or get tested the vehicles that had acquired roadworthy certification fraudulently as there were thousands of cars on the road which had done that. Regarding the name and shame campaign, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development had issued a memorandum preventing the Department from naming and shaming convicted drunk drivers - would that not affect the initiative the RTMC planned to launch?

Lastly, RTMC had admitted to the board to not having resources to do forensic management of serious accidents, which led to the shareholders voting to shut down the RTMC and transfer it elsewhere. However the RTMC was still budgeted for, for this year and the next year to continue in its current form and not to be transferred to the provinces to run their own road safety campaigns - was it kept alive for the e-tolling in Gauteng?

The Minister shared that the Department was working in conjunction with the Department of Health regarding the time lapse to get blood test results back.  A large number of technicians had been employed in order to look at the blood testing facilities in order to turn around the time lapse so there were no instances where the blood was contaminated or compromised because of the time that passed. Furthermore, the responsibilities of the RTMC were national in conjunction and in relation to the nine provinces. As to the shareholder committee which had responsibility over the RTMC, the shareholders were comprised of the nine provinces and the Department of Transport; they took a resolution in a meeting and it was then for the Minister of Transport and the Department to express a view in regard to the resolution taken and advise Cabinet accordingly – the process was still underway for the Department and Ministry to form their resolutions and then advise Cabinet on what should happen. The Portfolio Committee would be kept abreast regarding the process.

The Hon. Sindisiwe Chikunga, Deputy Minister of Transport, said that when the courts ruled that breathalysers were not permissible in court it was a huge setback as there was the issue with the actual blood testing. The traffic officer would have to leave the road and accompany the person to the hospital to the casualty department where the medical staff would most likely be attending to emergencies. In this instance a drunk person was not an emergency. By the time the blood was taken the alcohol levels in the person’s blood would have dropped and the person could argue in court based on those results. The Department with the Department of Health was working on creating other reliable equipment similar to the breathalyser but more reliable and which would be permissible in court, and in that regard there were lessons to be learned in other countries. The roll out of the demerit system might be a solution to some of the problems, but not all.

Mr Letsoalo said the issue with statistics was a worry to the RTMC as half the time it would release the statistics and would later be informed that they missed 3 000 bodies. The discrepancy in numbers was based on the differing methodologies used. The figures that Mr Ollis gave from the report were calculated by extrapolation; for instance in 2007 the Medical Research Council collected its information from only 39 morgues in seven different provinces, which only accounted for 42% of people that died on the roads, whereas the RTMC on the other hand counted actual bodies. For the Medical Research Council to get its figures for one year it took five years, and the RTMC got their figures every week from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and confirmed the data with the Department of Home Affairs.

Regarding the vehicles, there were 10 009 vehicles that were captured in the automatic number plate recognition systems to be traced. The RTMC was also told that there were about 30 000 vehicles that were being looked for by the banks as well, most of which vehicles were not roadworthy.

There was a standard that was passed in March 2013 concerning the breathalyser. The courts had found that there were certain qualities of the breathalyser that were not up to standard. Most of the breathalysers now were coming in with the required standards. The RTMC was working with the prosecution to set up the standards. However what would continue to be an issue was the confidence of the officers in front of defence advocates and the problem with writing up statements correctly. For someone to be given a blood test, the breathalyser was first used to determine if a blood test was necessary.

The RTMC also had a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development regarding the name and shame initiative, where the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development would provide the names.

Mr M Duma (ANC) asked if the programmes would be working in all provinces, and how was it ensured that all provinces were using these programmes. If there were meetings with provinces to implement them, were there people actually working to ensure that they were implemented? Were provinces working with municipalities and should the municipalities have any problems, was national able to assist when called to?

The Minister said there was synergy between national and the provinces, the Department worked with various MECs from the provinces. There was no national programme of the Department that did not have the input of the provinces.

Mr Letsoalo said municipalities did have capacity challenges; where possible the RTMC had assisted and even set aside a budget for such use.

Ms D Dlakude (ANC) acknowledged that there had been improvements with RTMC, the entity was doing a commendable job and improved day by day. Members had to provide the body with all the resources needed to encourage such improvement.

Regarding imported cars causing accidents, South Africa had the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) that approved cars to allow the vehicles to transport people or not. She asked if the processes were not being followed when the cars entered the country. The Member also agreed that Mpumalanga had a high rate of accidents; some vehicles on the road were clearly and visibly not roadworthy. People parked their cars and trucks in garages the whole day and waited for traffic officials to go off duty going on the road. If the RTMC was to implement all their intervention strategies, people of Mpumalanga would be much safer. There were roads that had accidents every day and school children and people were hit and killed by speeding drivers; perhaps there could be speed humps on those roads.

The Minister said that the Department would continue to ensure that the Department of Trade and Industry made sure that the law in this regard was followed to the letter.

The Deputy Minister said the Department was encouraging road safety councils in communities to identify areas, such as the Member proposed, to have speed humps, and speak to their local municipalities to put them in place so that they did not wait for the national government to intervene as that would take time. However, where there were requests not met, national government would assist and approach the local municipalities with the reports of deaths on a particular road. It was also perhaps important that liquor licensing boards looked at where the taverns were located in relation to the busy roads before they were issued with a licence.

Mr Suka asked if testing stations were standardised between South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. The audit and assessment of roads would presumably be in conjunction with the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) and municipalities. However, to what extent was the commitment from the municipalities and/or provinces? Was there an MOU between the three spheres of government for the assessment of roads? He proposed that there should be emphasis on rural roads.

The consultative approach with sister departments to play their role in regards to infrastructural development was commendable. To what extent was that as far as roads were concerned  in provinces, as some provinces were slow? The assessment of roads should start from the bad roads or roads with most accidents for this financial year and in the next one target another set of roads so that no areas were glossed over. In terms of capacity, did the RTMC have enough staff to cater for all its programmes and the whole country, as overloaded staff could lead to inefficiency?

Mr Suka proposed that the country looked into other technologies, such as using nitrogen for tyres to minimise tyre bursts and also for vehicles to have an obligatory devices installed where the accelerator would cut off when the South African speed limit had been reached.

The scholar transport design had been coming since the 1990s. Was there a general design in mind?  Bakkies and tractors were currently used to ferry learners to school. For the safety of learners where did the government stand? Also, the government had planned to implement a programme where learners were to be trained from grade 11 and get practical driving experience so by the time they left grade 12 they had licences - was there any progress on that?

The Minister said that the Department would continue to visit testing grounds within the country, as it had done in the previous year in Joe Gqabi. The use of nitrogen on tyres was also a novel possibility that was being looked into.

Mr Letsoalo said that 80% of South African cars were more than 10 years old, which would therefore limit the technology used.

Mr P Mbhele (COPE) applauded RTMC for its turnaround strategy that was actually working since Mr Letsoalo and his team took over. He expressed that there was a problem of corruption and bribery in testing stations, where people had to pay the invigilator to get a license.

The Minister also commended the RTMC on producing results on its turnaround strategy, which was actually yielding results.

The Deputy Minister said that the Department was considering bringing in intelligence strategies to combat corruption at testing stations.

The Chairperson asked what informed the establishment of the RTMC so that the Committee could evaluate the need for the body and measure that against its performance record, look at the challenges the body experienced along the way, and how it had responded to them.

The Chairperson spoke on the major road accidents that had taken many lives recently, particularly ones involving school children and if they had any impact on the scholar transport policy as well as the infrastructural development of the country. These accidents included the accident in the Western Cape on a level crossing in which 14 children died, one with a school bus and minibus where a school principal died, and many others grisly ones. The question was then on the laws governing the vehicles used to carry passengers.

The Minister said that it was illegal to transport human beings in the back of a van in some countries and there were valid reasons for that; in South Africa one van in an accident resulted in the death of 18 or 20 children. The country needed to look into what it was going to do regarding the matter.

Mr Letsoalo agreed that it was important to have specified vehicles that were appropriate to ferry school children. There existed an 80/20 principle, where 80% of accidents happened on national and provincial roads, which were incidentally some of the best roads and this again reverted back to the issue of behaviour of drivers. 10% of accidents were attributed to infrastructure of roads and 80% were attributed to behaviour. Regarding vehicle testing centres, the Department was developing a service delivery improvement model that was a customer centric way of servicing in the centres. Some of the testing centres might not actually be corrupt but rather they might be overwhelmed by the numbers they were servicing.

Mr Ollis said there were 26 examiners arrested and 152 vehicles that had been confiscated. The AFT report indicated that there might be thousands of vehicles tested in the centres where the examiners were later arrested. That implied that there could be thousands of vehicles on the road with fake roadworthy certificates. He asked if there was a programme of action to locate those vehicles.

Also the Medical Research Council report was a scientific study based on sound principles. He asked what Mr Letsoalo meant when he said they “counted bodies”, as the Member had spoken to traffic officers, medical teams that took the people to hospitals and ambulance drivers, who had stated that only the people who died at the scene were counted whereas some people died in hospital [weeks] later. Those people were therefore not counted in the police statistics, which would then explain the discrepancy between the figures.

The Deputy Minister said when a person was involved in an accident and taken to a hospital, the person’s file would state that any incurred injury was from a motor vehicle accident. Therefore when that person died, in the presence of an officer with the patient’s file, the pathologist would perform a post-mortem. Figures from the police would be more reliable, as by law, a police officer was always present during the post-mortem and would therefore take that information with him that the individual died following a car accident. Whether the person died in the scene of the accident or not, the police would still have the information of someone who died following an accident. The police were more reliable than the traffic officers as traffic officers were only present at the scene and the police were also present at the morgue.

Mr Letsoalo said that there were 10 009 vehicles that the RTMC was looking for; the vehicles were already captured on the system (Automatic Number Plate Recognition Capabilities). Should the car drive pass a tollgate, for instance, the system would pick the number plate up as one of the cars being looked for.

Mr Suka asked if testing drivers was standardised within the SADC countries and were there lessons learnt from other African countries and best practices, and if the the SOS line on national roads still worked?

Mr Letsoalo replied that RTMC had meetings with SADC countries; the last one was held in Botswana. On the driver training side most SADC countries were far ahead of South Africa and on the vehicle testing side South Africa was ahead. In some instances there had been some collaboration between the countries. Swaziland had not adhered to the protocol between the countries and there had therefore been instances where Swaziland drivers had been arrested for using their licences in South Africa. National roads were patrolled and there was a toll-free number. The SOS lines were no longer working.

The Minister affirmed that the Department was indeed in touch with their SADC counterparts and would share the outcome of such relations with the Committee at a later stage.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister, Deputy Minister, the Department of Transport, and RTMC. The Committee had been treated with the respected that it deserved. The quality of the presentation was not anything else than expected. There were no longer talks of a turnaround strategy, the RTMC was producing results and had made the turn. The Committee supported the stance taken by the Minister against alcohol abuse by drivers; it was an approach that could reduce the number of fatalities on roads. The Committee had also observed that the fight against alcohol abuse was taken up by the Departments of Health and Social Development as well; that indicated a collective working relationship within the state. Liquor licensing boards needed to pay attention to the area in which they were issuing liquor licences, especially in areas around university student residences. To win the fight against alcohol abuse the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also needed to be involved.

Committee minutes: adoption
The Committee adopted, with amendments, its minutes of 4 June 2013.

The meeting was adjourned.



  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: