Govt orders major traffic crackdown By Kagashe Beatus THE CITIZEN The Government yesterday ordered the police to immediately mount a countrywide crackdown on defective vehicles and remove reckless drivers from the roads. The minister for Home Affairs, Mr Lawrence Masha, said stern action was needed to stem the spate of accidents that have claimed hundreds of lives in the recent times. Among the prominent victims of recent accidents are Tarime MP Chacha Wangwe, of Chadema, who was killed when his car rolled on Dodoma Road and former Assistant minister Salome Mbatia, who died late last year, when her car was involved in a collision with a lorry in Ruvuma. Morogoro, Mbeya, Singida, the northern regions of Arusha, and Kilimanjaro and the lake zone, are some of the areas that have seen horrific accidents lately. In Mbeya alone, police records indicate that 24 people have so far lost their lives, with the latest accident occurring on Tuesday, which claimed seven lives, when a bus and a lorry collided. Nineteen other passengers were admitted to hospital with serious injuries. Yesterday, Mr Masha blamed some of the fatal accidents on the laxity within the police force and the officers' negligence in the discharge of their duties. He said they had failed to rein in wayward and incompetent drivers to curb the rampant flouting of traffic rules. "Many accidents have occurred not only due to bad driving, but also because there are many unroadworthy vehicles on our roads. Let us all act to the citizens� expectations," said the minister. Efforts to reach the Traffic Commandant, Mr James Kombe, for comment on the minister's directive failed, as he did not answer his mobile telephone. However, Mr Masha said many of the accidents could have been prevented if the police were more honest, and strict and strictly enforced road use regulations. "My directive is very clear and must be implemented immediately. Unqualified drivers must be identified and punished severely to curb this unnecessary loss of lives," he told The Citizen. The minister said the existing tough laws must be enforced to catch drivers who break the rules and remove from the roads all the unroadworthy vehicles. He was speaking when he officially closed a management course for junior officers and inspectors at the Police College in Dar es Salaam. Some 375 officers graduated. "I'm directing all of you who have gone through this course and the others to work hard and with integrity to make sure that our people's lives are not needlessly cut short in the increasing road accidents," said Mr Masha said. He noted that his ministry, in collaboration with the ministry of Infrastructural Development, were reviewing the road policy, as part of efforts to tame the increasing road accidents. The directive comes amid heightening concern about the rate of fatal accidents across the country as the more people continue to die on the roads. Commenting on the Mbeya accident, Mr Masha wondered how police could have let the lorry, which was carrying maize and 28 passengers go unchecked until the accident occurred. In May, 15 people died on the spot along the Morogoro-Dodoma Road, when their van collided with a truck. They included two Catholic nuns. Last September, 27 people perished on the spot when a bus travelling to Dar es Salaam from Mbeya was involved in a collision with a lorry. In June, last year, in Singida, 25 people perished when the driver of a bus, which was negotiating a corner, lost control before it rolled and burst into flames. A traffic police department report for 2006 says that more than 2,400 people lost their lives in road accidents that year. The figure was 50 times higher than the rate of accidents in other countries. According to the report, reckless driving accounted for more than two-thirds of the road accidents between 1999 and 2005, while unroadworthy motor vehicles and poor road conditions caused the remaining 24 per cent. Road accidents reportedly cost the country Sh230 billion ($184 million) a year and the Government fears that they will skyrocket unless tough measures are taken soon. The public has faulted the traffic department for often mounting haphazard campaigns, after a bad accident occurs and where no tangible results are recorded. Last year, the department declared war on unroadworthy passenger vehicles and threatened to cancel the licences of incompetent drivers, an exercise that has so far yielded little results. An order to remove nearly 200 buses from operation because their reported structural defects was put off after owners won a reprieve that is expected to end later in the year. The buses are said to have been built on lorry chases that experts fear contribute to their frequent accidents due to instability. An exercise to issue new driving licences that are difficult to forge was also suspended. At yesterday's function, Mr Masha called on those graduating to help change the poor image of the force. "Police officers need improve their knowledge and skills in their defence of good governance, law and order." The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Said Mwema, said the force was negotiating with the University of Dar es Salaam to mount a diploma in law course at the police college. Mr Mwema said they were also consulting with the National Council for Vocational Training to change the syllabus so that the college could be recognised internationally. The plan was to turn the college into a Tanzania Police Academy. "We believe these plans will be helpful to police officers who need to upgrade their education and it will produce competent leaders in the future," said Mwema Police college boss Elice Mapunda said there was need to increase a number of students up to 900 to fill vacancies at the senior management level. She said HIV/Aids centres would be established at every police station to sensitise the officers on the scourge.