Ndebele calls for partnership against road deaths

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pretoria - Minister of Transport Sibusiso Ndebele has called for a global partnership in the fight against road deaths in Africa and the world.

Ndebele said: "unless we act urgently, road deaths will become an epidemic worse than HIV and AIDS and malaria.

"A global partnership is therefore necessary to stop road accidents and to end carnage on our roads," Ndebele said on Saturday.

He was speaking at the first Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in Moscow.

Ndebele said the greatest partners in this struggle must be those who have lost relatives and friends in road crashes.

"If we have 1.3million people dying on our roads every day, then we have more than 2million people who must become our immediate partners in this struggle," said Ndebele.

Ndebele said the second group of partners in this fight must be the very young, who are yet to acquire bad driving habits, to whom wearing a seatbelt, not drinking and driving can still be acquired as a force of habit.

As from next year, Ndebele said his department will target young people at school as the building block of a new movement which seeks to make roads safer.

He said they would roll out a massive skills programme to teach young people about road safety.

The third set of partners must be the religious sector which shoulders the burden of burying the dead every day of the year somewhere around the world, Ndelebe told the conference.

"As we say in South Africa: It is the living who close the eyes of the dead; it is the dead who open the eyes of the living."

Ndebele also said government, as the primary driver of road safety, also had to work with celebrities, artists and sports people.

"The power of using art is that art does not argue, it states. Art's strongest characteristic is its capacity to penetrate the deepest faculties without imposing itself. Sport unites people seamlessly across race and class, across generations and ages, without due regard for political and geographical borders. "

He said together art and sports can help build a formidable force for change, a force for a safer environment.

More than 1 000 representatives - including 70 ministers - from over 120 countries are attending the conference, which aims to increase the profile of road safety among policy makers and reduce the number of deaths on the world's roads.

South Africa's participation in the conference is aimed at supporting the call for the implementation of the policies and strategies of the Decade of Action for Road Safety to be undertaken in 2010-2020.