Time has come for all of us to ask ourselves how serious or keen we have been as a nation in learning from experience, past mistakes in particular.
We may be tempted into castigating the government over perceived laxity we elect to cite as the cause of the problems we face, while it might often be that the rest of us are equally at fault and ought to take a whipping.
Surface, marine and other traffic accidents are a case in point in that it is usually after tragedy strikes that society is swings into action when, in fact, by the milk is already spilt and the most we can do is mourn the dead, treat the wounded, console the bereaved and soon after resume a semblance of normal life.
We might decide to put up roadblocks at “confirmed” black spots, fine or jail motorists notorious for causing crashes, etc., etc., but again it is often business as usual only days later.
The more grisly the accidents, mainly in terms of the magnitude of loss of life and limb and the frequency of the incidents, most often the fury with which law-enforcement agents, politicians and the larger public react.
This has always been the sad trend – following the mid-1990s tragic sinking of MV Bukoba in Lake Victoria in which over 1,000 people are understood to have died and right through this Wednesday’s sinking of a ferry boat near Zanzibar with over 250 people on board.
Questions have been raised about the level of our disaster preparedness, particularly in terms of having an adequate number of experts able to mount timely and reasonably successful search and rescue operations instead of having to rely on personnel from as far away as South Africa as happened after the MV Bukoba tragedy.
On most previously such occasions, the most our people have done is to swiftly assemble but thereafter helplessly look on as things turn from bad to worse, the major reason being lack of the requisite expertise and equipment.
To their credit, marine police and military corps have often chipped in by joining hands with handfuls of local drivers volunteering to beef up search and rescue missions but really not to much effect – and not because they lacked patriotism or were insensitive to the suffering of other people.
Considering all this, is it not high time we put in place better modalities of managing or actually averting traffic accidents as the nature of most of them has kept recurring and is therefore nothing new?
Wouldn’t it make a huge difference even going out of the ordinary by effecting budgetary allocations alongside taking other measures deemed necessary in substantially enhancing the capacity and efficiency of public agencies such as the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) and search and rescue teams?
For example, sources suggest that the boat at the centre of Wednesday’s tragedy was hardly seaworthy.
As we await experts’ findings on this particular incident, we expect the government to do all in its power to further empower search and rescue brigades while also satisfying itself that the traffic crashes we keep witnessing are indeed accidents and not otherwise.