Tanzania is no stranger to road, marine, train, air and other forms of traffic accidents that have ended in loss of life and limb as well as destruction of property.
The major talking point whenever disaster strikes often revolves around the magnitude of the loss and the severity of the damage – but also relates to why it so happens that we keep being a lot more reactive than proactive.
These are very valid observations. For it is indeed true that even confirmed black spots become crowd-pullers only when grisly accidents occur, to be forgotten about soon after.
For reasons that one could describe as obvious, it is quite possible that we don’t have as much experience dealing with air traffic accidents as we probably do with the other forms.
Strangely, we are usually all so helpless even with respect to cases whose frequency we are supposed to have immense ability to reduce and where we would find no credible explanation why we can’t minimise harm.
What lessons, for instance, have we – as individual citizens and as a nation – really learnt from the thousands of road accidents, scores of marine disasters and tens of train mishaps our country has witnessed in the ten to twenty years?
We might cite a handful, saying that’s why we now have more and better roads, commuter buses, etc., but is whatever distance we have covered all the length the resources at our disposal could make us go?
Our development partners, those merely wishing our country well and our critics are all keeping an eye on what we are doing with our natural, intellectual, technological and various other resources and inputs. We need to convince them that we are serious. But even more importantly, we need to convince ourselves that we mean business.
Murmurs, allegations, recommendations, revelations and events preceding the recent Cabinet reshuffle led many into believing some people in positions of leadership and authority have been so blinded by selfish interests that they no longer have the interests of the nation at heart. It’s as well that they have been offloaded, of course amid appeals that merely sidelining them is not severe enough punishment.
That may be history, but it should serve to remind all those holding public office that public interests always ought to take precedence over all other considerations.
Back to our approaches to the issue of traffic accidents, for illustration: an official with the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) is on record as having said the agency has floated a tender notice in respect of the drawing up of standards for use in building marine vessels.
According to the official, the aim is to tame the tide of accidents involving marine vessels and therefore enhance the safety of passengers and property.
We ask: planning to draw up guidelines this late? Why not ten years ago, or upon Sumatra’s birth, or earlier? One wonders whether what was said merely meant to brighten up the skies as Tanzanians marked the 16th anniversary of the tragic sinking of MV Bukoba in Lake Victoria – with the horrendous loss of over 900 people.
Surely, we need to be more serious and focused.