National airline or boats?

As the country mourns the tragic loss of 26 lives in the Lake Kariba tragedy, serious thought must be given to the implementation of marine safety measures.

Some thought should also be given to providing more secure transport on our waterways. So far only the Post boat offers a reliable service between Samfya and Chilubi Island and yet there are many areas that are in dire need of safe and reliable water transport.

One politician Mr. Nason Msoni has even suggested that Government should consider providing  support for water transport before venturing into a national airline. He feels that more people  utilize water transport than the few elite that would patronize an airline.

He is holding the Government responsible for the accident.

There is no doubt that the Banana boat is the proverbial workhorse that plies most of our water bodies and therefore is usually involved in accidents.  In the absence of statistics and design evaluation it may be too early to conclude that the design is faulty.

 However we are tempted to agree with former Minister of Transport William Harrington that these boats should be speedily evaluated to determine their suitability for the tasks they are subjected to and if indeed they can withstand marine dynamics.

For example, was it normal for such a boat to carry 34 people instead of the 14 that it is apparently designed for? There is no reason to doubt that this is a normal occurrence on most of our water bodies, where patrols are almost nonexistent.

If so, are we waiting for another accident of similar magnitude before we act?

Something must be done on two fronts. Firstly an examination of the design must be expedited. Far too many accidents have taken place on the various water bodies including Lake Mweru on which we have lost many people including Catholic priests among the notables.

It is also a reality that none of the boats operating on most water bodies carry any kind of safety equipment, least of all life vests. We are sure that many lives would have been saved if all the passengers on the ill fated boat were wearing life vests.

Such a simple and straight forward measure would most certainly save lives although the practicality of enforcement may prove difficult in view of the number and geographical location of our lakes and rivers.

 It is imperative that a start should be made to ensure effective patrols to conscientise and make people aware of the dangers that lurk if safety measures are not considered.

It must also be mandatory to determine the suitability of those entrusted with lives. Not everybody should be allowed to carry passengers.  A boat is just as good as a car which can only be driven by a licensed driver.

It is our considered opinion that the waterways should be patrolled and everything should be done to make sure that the boats are in good condition and that those who run public transport are equipped with life vests. This may be expensive and difficult to implement, however Government should be seen to be taking measures in this  direction.