President Cyril Ramaphosa’s temporary ban on liquor sales did little to curb road accidents in KwaZulu-Natal as 47 people died from 37 crashes during the Easter long weekend.
This was seven more that the fatalities seen during the same period in 2019 and 42 more compared to last year when the country was in a hard lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week, Ramaphosa announced that alcohol outlets would be temporarily prohibited from trading during the Easter long weekend from Friday to Monday.
The president said this was part of government’s measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 and the number of road fatalities that usually occur during this period.
When Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Peggy Nkonyeni presented the preliminary road statistics for the long weekend — from April 1 to April 4 — she blamed drunk driving for most of the fatalities.
“No matter how many law enforcement officers we may deploy, we can never be able to police every aspect of motorists’ behaviour, so this calls for us to individually take responsibility for our actions when we get behind the steering wheel,” she said.
In one incident, according to the transport department, an alleged drunk driver in Godlwayo, Zululand District, was transporting 29 people to a wedding when he lost control of the vehicle. Three people died and 25 were critically injured in the accident.
Nkonyeni was speaking at the N3 Mariannhill Toll Plaza, where law enforcement officials were conducting a roadblock and random safety checks as part of Operation Vala Easter.
On average, 1 000 cars passed through the toll plaza hourly while the number peaked at 2 000 around noon, according to road traffic officials.
“Integrated roadblocks will continue throughout the province targeting all degrees of crime including unroadworthy vehicles, overloading, destructive driving, drinking and driving, and illegal drugs, among other violations,” said Nkonyeni.
Victor Chetty, provincial director of the Road Traffic Inspectorate, said 111 motorists were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol during the weekend. In one incident, Chetty said, a motorist in Scottburgh was found 11 times over the legal limit for alcohol.
In total Chetty said they stopped 14 740 vehicles, arrested 1 035 motorists for various traffic offences and impounded 111 vehicles, of which 78 operated as public transport.
Boy Zondi, KZN South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) chairperson, said this was a relatively subdued Easter weekend for the taxi industry.
“People are afraid to travel due to the [Covid-19] virus, which results in a huge loss of business to us and unfortunately it ends up with drivers getting their taxis impounded because they cannot pay or maintain them,” he said.
Zondi said he was pleased that none of the fatalities involved KZN Santaco-registered taxis.
“It hurts that people died but we are grateful that the taxi body is listening and complying with regulations to decrease the number of deaths due to taxi accidents,” he said.