DA propose interim measures to improve learner transport safety

Rafeek Shah, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Transport:

AN accident yesterday, involving 20 school children near Port Shepstone, could have been avoided if there was a decent public transport system in KZN along with an enforced Learner Transport Policy.

The DA sends it sympathies to the families of these children.  We are committed to monitoring the progress of an investigation into the cause of this incident.

The issue of learner transport accidents in KZN has become untenable.  The recent increase in accidents involving bakkies transporting learners requires urgent mitigating action by KZN’s Transport department and MEC Willies Mchunu needs to take swift action as the buck stops with him.

The fact is that, until learners have access to a safe alternate mode of transport, bakkies will remain the choice of transportation especially in rural and peri-urban areas.

The DA recommends the following interim measures until a final policy solution is reached;

–           Special licensing permits for bakkies transporting learners

–           Improved monitoring of such vehicles with stringent law enforcement

–           Some form of subsidy by the KZN transport department for bakkie owners for the purpose of meeting vehicle maintenance expenses

–           Registration by bakkie owners with the school/s where they transport learners with allowances for Principals and SGB’s to periodically inspect such vehicles.
These are cost-effective and manageable interventions which the DA believes will lead to the safer transport of pupils.

There are currently 34 500 KZN learners being ferried to and from school in bakkies. The financial demands of safe learner transport far outweigh the department’s current budget allocation for this programme.  It is therefore unlikely that we will see all learners in the province with access to safe transport for a long time.

I have today written to the MEC with the DA’s suggestions.  I urge him to show leadership and responsibility and seriously consider these interim measures until such time as a comprehensive policy is finalised.