ZIMBABWE is cattle country, especially the arid Matabeleland region. But motorists are increasingly finding that these domesticfated, seemingly harmless animals are a dangerous hazard.
The road network has become very busy in the last three years, coinciding with an upturn in the country’s economic performance. This increase in road traffic has served to highlight a major problem faced by drivers on major roads today: stray cattle and other domesticated animals crossing at undesignated zones.
Motorists already pay heavy taxes for the use of these roads, but many are also paying with their lives for the government’s failure to get a handle on the animal hazard on the roads.
Drive along the Beitbridge-Bulawayo road, or the Beitbridge-Masvingo road and you will be struck by how many times you have to stop for donkeys sleeping in the middle of the road or cattle streaking across the highway.
Zimbabwe once had regulations that made it a criminal offence for farmers to let their domesticated animals stray onto the road network. If there was ever a good time to invoke those laws, perhaps to encourage landowners to secure the fences that were previously in existence especially in farming areas, that time is now.
I may not readily have statistics to corroborate this, but traffic police and the ministry of transport could vouch that a large number of our kinsmen and women have either lost their lives trying to avoid these animals or colliding with them.
Road users, apart from navigating poor roads, find themselves being asked to pay toll fees and road tax. It is imperative that other than only raising revenue from the road network, the government also plays a role in protecting road users by ensuring avoidable accidents – like collisions with animals – are avoided.
The primary focus should be on providing a good road network for the paying public especially now that Air Zimbabwe is comatose and the National Railways is in the resuscitation room fighting for its dear life. Embedded in these improvements could be strategies of keeping domesticated animals off the roads.
If wild unpredictable animals can be kept in check in safaris and game reserves, why can't farmers take responsibility for their animals that stray onto the roads?