Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has suggested measures to address South Africa’s appalling road accident incidence, which results in about 14 000 fatalities a year and an annual loss to the economy of an estimated R306 billion.
Two of these include a reduction in the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers and extending the time it will take for first-time applicants to get a driver’s licence.
However, if the government is to have any chance of achieving its goal of halving the number of annual road fatalities by 2020, the plan should have involved many more new and imaginative ideas.
Pedestrians make up an extremely high proportion of road fatalities. This is a focus area that has been severely neglected for years but requires urgent attention and intervention. A need also exists to regulate driving schools, particularly the competence of their instructors, while also monitoring the relationship they have with staff at licence testing stations.
There have been estimates that up to 40 percent of all driver’s licences may be fake or irregularly or corruptly issued.
It would be impossible to check the paperwork for every driver’s licence issued but the problem cannot be ignored. As a start, audits at the various testing stations might be able to identify corrupt testing centres, while it might also help to conduct checks on the licences issued to motorists involved in serious accidents to ensure they were properly issued.
In the battle to get motorists to obey the rules of the road and act courteously towards other road users, the spotlight must also be focused on the conduct of blue-light convoys. At no stretch of the imagination can their conduct, particularly their intimidation and bullying of other road users, be legal in terms of the Road Traffic Act. Leadership involves leading by example.
The same applies to the inconsiderate and lawless driving by many taxi drivers. To increase compliance, the rules of the road must be applied equally and without fear or favour to all who use them.
“The banks have always been about taking and managing risks, that’s the whole point of a banking system otherwise why have a bank?” Chris Harvey, Deloitte’s global head of financial services, said yesterday, raising an important question.
With the reports on Wednesday by consulting firm PwC and credit bureau company TransUnion both showing that banks are tightening their lending rules, it means that certain segments of the market, particularly low earners, are going to feel the pinch more. This tightening of lending rules is an effort to control unsecured lending, which has put many households under great financial stress. The TransUnion consumer credit index for the second quarter showed that on average, one person was defaulting on three accounts.
So Roger Verster, the leader of financial services consulting for Africa at Deloitte, agreed that there had been a misreading of the client base by some lenders and they had extended more than they should have.
His colleague, Harvey, disputes the view that unsecured lending is bad.
“It’s positive for the economy and the customers. It creates growth particularly in the developing world where you can’t really ask for any security. We can’t get to a point where banks are not allowed to take risks anymore. We should, however, allow them to do that within tolerance levels.”
His view is that the life blood of an economy is people who are prepared to take risks, getting returns for that risk.
Both Harvey and Verster said they would rather have the unsecured loans increase in the formal banking sector because it was regulated.
“But with the tighter restriction on loans at the moment, there is a very appreciable proportion of the South African population who will really struggle to get any form of financing and the danger is, we are going to drive them to the hands of the less scrupulous lenders,” Verster said.
The hospitality industry is preparing for a boom tourism season, helped by the weakness of the rand that makes the most expensive hotels affordable to more of our foreign visitors.
Anton Roelofse, the regional general manager of Business Partners, which specialises in financing small and medium enterprises, expects smaller tourism businesses, too, to benefit.
But, he warns, the industry as a whole must resist the temptation to put up prices to compensate for the drop in the exchange rate for the rand, as happened on the last occasion that South Africa was a bargain destination for foreign visitors.
He said that although the weak rand was causing widespread pain throughout the economy, tourism was one of the sectors to benefit.
“Combined with other factors such as the emergence of Europe and the US from hard times, the awakening of the fast-growing African middle class to the pleasures of tourism and the lingering afterglow of hosting the soccer World Cup in 2010, the weak rand could bring an unprecedented boom in tourism.”
Meanwhile, fears that Cape Town would suffer from the withdrawal of SAA’s direct service from London seem groundless as foreign airlines prepare to fly in to take its place. Edelweiss, a Swiss full-service airline with a business class, which specialises in the high end of the leisure market, announced this week that it would return next month with flights for the third year running. Michael Trestl, Edelweiss’s business development manager, said it would bring mostly Swiss passengers but it also attracted some from the UK, Germany, Italy and other EU countries.
Edelweiss belongs to German airline Lufthansa, which will also return with seasonal flights. So will Virgin Atlantic Airways, Air France and another airline specialising in tourism, Condor, which is based in Frankfurt.
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Roy Cokayne, Londiwe Buthelezi and Audrey D’Angelo.