New scholar transport regulations must be linked to fines for successful law enforcement

The horror crash in Port Elizabeth on Monday, 31 July, which claimed the life of a scholar transport driver and left 18 children injured has highlighted the fact that the provincial Department of Transport has failed to arm legislation to stop pupils from being transported in bakkies.   Penalties must be gazetted as a matter of urgency so that traffic officials have an enforcement mechanism.

It is every parent’s greatest fear that their child will come to harm.  A caring government would ensure the safety of all its citizens, especially vulnerable children.  As long as the new legislation is merely an exercise on paper, these dreadful accidents will continue to happen.

I have been reliably informed that the Eastern Cape Department of Transport is yet to hold a workshop the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro about the changes to section 75 (6) of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996.  The amendments, which came into effect in May this year particularly focus on Regulation 250 which states that no school child or person is to be transported in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward.

The Eastern Cape’s  Scholar Transport Policy is seriously lacking any punch because it does not outline any fine system for transport operators who do not abide by the law.  Until there is set penalties outlined in the policy, there isn’t a clear direction for traffic officers to enforce the legislation on the roads.

Each province develops its own policy for scholar transport specific to its province.  In the Western Cape, the Scholar Transport Policy has stipulated monetary penalties against offenders.

In June this year, five learners were killed and sixteen injured in an accident near Mbizana when the bakkie ferrying 21 learners collided with a bus.

The Democratic Alliance believes that education is the key to improving the lives of our people.   Scholar transport is a necessary step towards fulfilling scholars’ right to basic education as guaranteed by Section 29(1) of the Constitution.

What should be implemented as a matter of urgency is:

  • A component within the Department of Transport to specifically manage the functions of the learner transport system – transfer of skills from service providers and consultants;
  • Re-examination of the tariff and cost structure;
  • Re-examination of routes and pickup points;
  • Better information systems that are accurate and reliable; and
  • Fines for transport operators who do not comply, similar to the Western Cape

On behalf of the DA, I extend our condolences to the family of the driver of the bakkie as well as the families of the victims who sustained injuries in yesterday’s incident.

The DA will continue working towards a safe scholar transport system in the Eastern Cape. — Marshall von Buchenroder MPL, Shadow MEC for Transport