Legislature Debate: DA supports the call to ban the transportation of workers on open vehicles

Anthony Benadie, MPL

DA Provincial Leader, Mpumalanga

Note: This is a member’s statement by Anthony Benadie MPL, DA Provincial Leader, to the Mpumalanga Provincial legislature, on 21 October 2014 during the Debate on the motion tabled by the Hon Maunye (BRA) on the transportation of farm workers.

Hon Speaker, the Democratic Alliance again expresses sour heartfelt condolences to the family of the victims who tragically lost their lives in the horrific R40, Kiepersol road accident. The loss of a loved one, particularly a family ‘bread winner’ is devastating to say the least.

However, this incident is not the first of its kind in Mpumalanga, and if left unattended, will not be the last.

  • A truck transporting farm workers overturned on the R571 between Komatipoort and Coopersdal on March 26 2014, in which 60 passengers were injured,
  • In July 2012, dozens of workers lost their lives when a truck carrying farmworkers collided with train a train in Nkomazi.

Honourable Speaker, these are just a handful of the stories that continue to plague the headlines of newspapers across the country. Every incident is heart breaking and the consequences far reaching.

However, we must note that the transportation of workers on the back of open vehicles, not only affects the Agricultural Sector. It is common practice in the mining and construction sectors as well, and in fact even our very own Dept Public Works, Roads and Transport can be seen transporting road construction workers and EPWP workers on the back of open vehicles. So too, the practise of transporting workers in this manner is not a phenomenon of Mpumalanga alone, but has become a norm in many communities around South Africa.

The big question is what are we, and in particular government going to do about it. Incident after incident our MEC’s make bold public announcements that the cases are to be investigated, but little ever happens and certainly nothing is being done about this dangerous practice.

Hon Speaker, legislation surrounding the transportation of workers in general is rather complicated, and I do not have the time to dwell on these complexities, but I would like to highlight Regulation 247 to the National Road Traffic Act 1996 (Act No. 93 of 1996).

The regulation states explicitly under what conditions workers may be transported in a goods vehicle (bakkie or truck). These include that the portion of the vehicle that the workers are being transported in must be enclosed, with the exact measurements stipulated, that the vehicle must be road worthy and not overloaded and that no person may be transported in the same compartment as goods or tools unless a partition is made.

With such explicit regulations, why is our provincial traffic department not enforcing the law? This relaxed approach has led to the death of too many of our provinces people.

Perhaps Hon Speaker, it is just too convenient for our traffic department to target motorists on the N4, setting up their speed cameras in 80km per hour zones rather than to enforce this law, or perhaps it is too convenient for the ANC derive political mileage from these devastating events, rather than ensuring that law enforcement authorities ensure legal compliance.

We must abolish this practice and instil a culture of valuing human life needs to be established.

Lastly Hon Speaker, We must note that what we know as public transport in Mpumalanga is in almost every instance actually privately owned transport operators. 20 years into our democracy, the ANC has not even begun establishing a public transport system.

In addition, we can extend the debate to include driver behaviour and the numerous horrific bus, taxi and other accidents frequently occurring in our province.

Ultimately Hon Speaker, the DA supports the call to ban the transportation of workers on open vehicles we call on government to ensure legislative compliance and most importantly for government to begin establishing an affordable public transport system for workers in all industries.

Workers are not cheap labour commodities but the backbone of our economy and therefore government has a non-negotiable responsibility to take proactive steps end the carnage of workers on our provinces roads.

I thank you.