Ndebele: Transport will be safe for SWC

2010-05-05 15:50

Worcester - Transport officials in South Africa said they are confident about the safety of the country's roads ahead of next month's World Cup despite a bus accident that killed 23 people on Wednesday.

"With 36 days to go to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, safe, efficient and reliable public transport, for South Africans and visitors alike, is a priority," said Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele.

"As government, we will not compromise the safety of innocent commuters," he said.

Ndebele was speaking after at least 23 people were killed and 15 badly injured when an unroadworthy bus overturned outside Cape Town, in one of the country's worst-ever road accidents.

The bus was carrying about 60 passengers.

Went through barrier

A Western Cape traffic official said the privately owned bus had been certified unroadworthy last month.

"The driver lost control of the bus, it then went through a barrier, overturned and then landed in the opposite direction it was travelling," said Western Cape community safety spokesperson Xenophone Wentzel.

"This is one of the worst road accidents in the region and the country," Wentzel told AFP.

"There was no other vehicle involved," he added.

Police were investigating a case of culpable homicide against the driver, who is in critical condition in hospital.

"We have been informed that some of those (killed) were children, but we don't know their age and how many," Wentzel said.

Mix up of body bags

Officials had revised an earlier toll of 24 dead after a mix-up over body bags, after it emerged that one bag contained a collection of body parts from victims.

Ndebele said his department would deploy mobile traffic control centres on major routes and around the nine host cities during the World Cup period to ensure road safety.

"Mobile control centres will be in operation during peak traffic flow periods and match days. There will also be high visibility traffic patrols along key routes," he said.

South Africa's roads are among the world's most dangerous, with around 16 000 people killed on it every year - an average of 45 a day.

A World Health Organisation study last year ranked South Africa ninth in the world in traffic fatalities, despite having a relatively small vehicle fleet of 9.2 million.

The government has spent billions of rands on transportation infrastructure ahead of the World Cup, including for the upgrade of roads and poor public transport systems.

International warnings

But some transport analysts say fans will still find travel difficult during the June 11 to July 11 tournament in a country more than three times the size of Germany.

The privately-registered bus in Wednesday's accident was on the road despite being suspended for poor roadworthiness, authorities said.

"It was not supposed to be ferrying passengers. We do not know why it managed to get on the road," said provincial transport spokesperson Solly Malatsi.

"This is blatant disregard for the law and we will ensure that there are serious consequences for the bus company or the owner concerned."

It was not immediately clear if the operator had other buses in use.

Several foreign embassies advise citizens to be cautious while driving in South Africa.

"Road conditions are generally good in South Africa," says the website of the United States government.

"However, excessive speed, poor lighting on rural roads, and insufficient regulatory control of vehicle maintenance and operator licensing have resulted in a high and increasing number of traffic fatalities."

The British foreign office warns of inconsistent driving standards and many fatal accidents, which the French attributed to speeding, driver inexperience, pedestrians on roads, and drunk driving.