Nobody disputes that the government measure to streamline the issuing of driving licences is a timely one in the broad effort to curb rising road accidents which have continued to claim innocent lives of Tanzanians.
For it is true that many a driver, after causing a fatal accident literally vanish, knowing that tracing them will be next to impossible, for the simple reason that their vital records exist nowhere.
Indeed many lie low for a while, before resurfacing under a different name to resume driving, working for an unsuspecting employer, endangering more lives in the process.
The new licences aim to do away with these loopholes. The smart card driving licences are able to capture all particulars of the individual such as photograph, signature and finger prints.
According to the police the issuance of computerised driving licenses was meant to curb forgery and violation of traffic rules and regulations such as previous driving offences, for control purposes.
The vital records are to be kept in a central database, retrievable instantly, thus enhancing tracking of offenders and preventing their resurfacing under fake identities.
Sadly the implementation of the change has already negatively impacted on other equally important economic and social endeavours, a situation which should have been foreseen before the exercise got underway.
The timing by the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) and police to start tracking bus drivers who were yet to upgrade their licences, just after the holiday season, could not have been worse.
It caught many innocent travelers in the crossfire for no justifiable reason. These people who had traveled to celebrate with relatives in various parts of the country were in a hurry to report back to work or school.
Reports from Arusha and Moshi, said the operation ended up grounding several buses whose drivers had not upgraded to the new licences, leaving a huge number of would-be travelers stranded, forcing others to book into hotels or put up with relatives.
Worse still the operation unleashed a scramble for the few remaining seats on the few buses allowed to travel, sending fares through the sky. Some reports said the desperate passengers were being asked to part with more than 40,000/- one way fare against the normal 18,000/-.
Besides these unplanned expenses the travelers were forced to incur, many might find themselves penalised for reporting to work or school late.
It is apparently in realisation of the negative impact that the Kilimanjaro Regional Police Commander, Absalom Mwakyoma said Sumatra should have found a way of inspecting the drivers without inconveniencing passengers.
Indeed this is where we see a dangerous gap. There is a tendency by some of our planners to overlook important details in critical undertakings, ending up not only causing inconvenience, but unnecessary losses or pain to unintended parties.
Couldn’t the operation, have been executed at a time when it would be of minimum inconvenience to passengers? Why not after the peak holiday season?
It is our expectation that the stakeholders executing the operation to ensure drivers upgrade to smart driving licences will review its implementation so that they avoid and where absolutely necessary minimise the negative implications to the economy and the people.