by Ben Taylor
Road safety hits the headlines
The number of deaths on Tanzania’s roads has risen up the national agenda, following a series of horrific bus crashes. The worst took place in early March, when a bus travelling through Iringa region was involved in a collision with a lorry. The lorry’s container fell on top of the fully-loaded bus, claiming 50 lives.
Meanwhile, a strike by bus drivers on both national and commuter routes in early April left passengers stranded and brought many parts of the country to a standstill. The strikers were pressing the government to change an allegedly oppressive by-law that required them to undertake two-week driving training and pay a TSh 560,000 fee to renew their driving licence every three years. They were also protesting against the allegedly unfounded penalties. At one point the police had to use tear gas to disburse the crowds gathered at hotspots, including Ubungu bus terminal.
The measures opposed by the strikers were part of the government’s efforts to reduce road traffic deaths. Nevertheless, the government was forced to back down, shelving the new measures that had angered the drivers. In the days after bus transport was resumed, another series of crashes occurred, including two in Mbeya region that claimed 18 and 20 lives.