Johannesburg – The Justice Project South Africa has ripped into new transport minister Joe Maswanganyi’s report on the 2017 Easter road fatality statistics, pointing out a number of glaring discrepancies and describing them as attempts at positive spin.
The most important discrepancy, it says, is Maswanganyi’s reference to 2015’s dramatic peak in fatalities, when he said that the 2017 preliminary death toll was 235 “significantly lower than the the 333 fatalities recorded in 2015”.
Wrong, Mr Minister, says the JPSA. Aside from the fact that 235 people dead on South Africa’s roads in less than a week is a catastrophic 51 percent higher than the already unacceptable casualty rate for 2016, on 8 April 2015 former transport minister Dipuo Peters said “the total crashes for the period under review is 208 resulting in 287 fatalities.”
So where did Maswanganyi’s figure of 333 come from?
The JPSA is presuming he based it on the finalised, as opposed to preliminary figures. Cold-blooded though it may sound, the final figures are only compiled after waiting a month to see how many more people have died from injuries sustained in crashes during the period under review.
So, using preliminary figures throughout, the announcement should have said “the number of fatalities increased by 51 percent from 156 in 2016 to 235 this year, only 52 or 22 percent fewer than the disastrous 287 fatalities recorded in 2015.”
Finalised figures for the December 2016 holiday season have not yet been released; they will obviously be higher than the 1714 fatalities reported on 10 January 2017, says the JPSA.
Who’s fooling who?
The new minister of transport also referred to the rise in fatal crashes between 11pm and 5am as a “new phenomenon” that needs to be addressed. Address it by all means, cautions the JPSA – the Road Traffic Management Corporation has been complaining for years about not getting enough funding to police the roads through the night.
But don’t call it ‘new’ when your predecessor said the 2015 spike in fatalities represented a departure from “the usual pattern of crashes happening between 22h00 and 06h00 when most of our law enforcers are not visible on the roads”.
Given that there has been no change in management at the RTMC since former minister Peters appointed Advocate Makhosini Msibi to head the agency, these contradictions beg the question: “Who is advising these ministers?”
If somebody is telling minister Maswanganyi that it’s unusual for fatal crashes to occur during the hours of darkness when traffic authorities are sleeping, says the JPSA, then he is being severely misinformed.
Cost of crashes
Minister Maswanganyi also said “the government spends R147 billion annually on accidents” and “Over and above this figure the Road Accident Fund spends R33 billion annually on claims.”
That’s a total of R180 billion a year. But a 2016 Council for Scientific and Industrial Research report entitled The Cost of Crashes in South Africa, commissioned by the RTMC and the department of transport themselves, gave the cost to the economy as a whole (not just to government) as R142.9 billion in 2105, which included private insurance claims, crash scene management, the socio-economist impact and Road Accident Fund payouts.
According to the new minister of transport the annual cost to government alone of crashes on South African roads is R37 billion more than the cost to government and the economy combined.
The bottom line, says the JPSA, is that inflating the costs of road crashes and trying to put a positive spin on fatality statistics points to the complete failure on the part of the department of transport and the RTMC to take ownership of what it calls “an unmitigated catastrophe”.