Accident scene on the R44 before the Durbanville off ramp where 51 farm workers were injured after a truck transporting 80 of them overturned. Picture supplied by Western Cape EMS
Accident scene on the R44 before the Durbanville off ramp where 51 farm workers were injured after a truck transporting 80 of them overturned. Picture supplied by Western Cape EMS

Stricter law enforcement needed to reduce accidents involving farm transport - ex-traffic chief

By Tshego Lepule Time of article published Feb 14, 2021

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Cape Town - The need for stricter enforcement of the laws has been highlighted as a critical response towards combating risks that lead to accidents in vehicles transporting farm workers.

In January alone, one worker died and over 60 workers were injured in two separate accidents in the province. And non-adherence to Covid-19 regulations as well as laws around the transportation of workers on heavy-duty vehicles have been fingered as a great challenge.

This emerged when the Standing Committee on Agriculture in the legislature was briefed on Wednesday on the issue of farmer transportation safety in the province.

Former Western Cape Traffic Chief Kenny Africa said while there are regulations that regulate the transport of people on good vehicles, it is the enforcement side that needs to be increased in order to reduce injuries when accidents occur.

“In order to stop this unfair and unnecessary carnage of the most vulnerable people in our community, it is important that a strict, no-nonsense approach be taken,” he said.

Former Western Cape Traffic Chief Kenny Africa highlights the importance of heightened law enforcement to police farmer transportation in the province. Photograph:Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

“Our provincial traffic service needs to work in conjunction with the local traffic service to stop this nonsense. It will not take any extra money or overtime to get law enforcement out on these known roads where accidents take place. To stop trucks when they leave or enter farms and if trucks are overloaded or endanger the lives of workers, they have to be stopped.

“If law enforcement is done in a correct manner, people would not take chances and less people would die on our roads.”

Gavin Solomons from Stellenbosch Municipality said driver fatigue is also a key player in causes of accidents.

“Often, you find that the driver is also a farm worker who often has to perform this role after working a full day,” he added.

CEO of Agri-Western Cape, Jannie Strydom, said while farmers are not in a transport business, it was important to balance worker safety and acknowledge the hardships faced by farmers.

“Farmers are there to farm and not shying away from the health and safety of their workforce, but not we are not in the transport business. The trucks and bakkies used to transport workers are used in the production process, and not to cover for farmers or anything, but those vehicles are not buses so they cannot obtain the necessary licensing because they are not registered for that,” he said.

“We have a large workforce in the province, especially now with the grape and fruit season upon us, there is pressure on the transport of farm workers from their houses to the workplace. By using these transport mechanisms, it is at times the only way we can assist the poor get to their place of work.”

The Western Cape Department of Transport’s Vigie Chetty said enforcing the law is difficult at times, given how unclear some of the laws are.

“It makes it more difficult to monitor and enforce when there is a lack of clarity on the legislation we are sitting with. All we have is regulation 247 which speaks about side protection as well as rails but it does not speak about the standards or the durability of material that cordons barriers and the seating arrangements and what it needs to be made of. A heavy duty vehicle has never been a form of transportation so determining overload even when weighed is difficult,” she said.

“Farm worker transportation has been a challenge that has been around for many years, the proposals on legislation have never been ratified by the national government, it makes law enforcement a great challenge.

“The newer problem we see is illegal immigrants being transported on vehicles between Eastern Cape and Western Cape, bringing in seasonal workers. So there are other agencies that need to come to the fore to address the challenges in this field.”

Weekend Argus

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