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DEEPLY CONCERNED

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The children of Eswatini are the future of her society; they deserve the best that we can offer.

That means a stable political regime and guaranteed first class education and healthcare services. And one of their basic human rights is protection; from all threats to their safety. A seven-year-old child died last month after being hit by a car in Mbabane. It shouldn’t matter who you are, where you are and what culture you subscribe to, there is nothing more tragic, in a directly personal sense, than the death of a child. And when it’s your own child the impact on you, the parent, is crippling. It’s something you never get over. After the initial trauma, you have a chance of ultimately resuming a fairly normal life, but the loss is there forever.

Deprived

So when a child is deprived of perhaps seven decades of life, its death on the road is hugely tragic. In this particular accident, the victim was by the side of the road walking home from school. There was no pavement. The vehicle being driven had collected a number of pupils from school. Children at the scene were interviewed by the police. The victim was allegedly pushed, albeit playfully, by another child, ending up in the path of the oncoming vehicle. It begs a key question, are our children aware of what and where is a safe place to be along the highway; and where to draw the red line?

The child was taken to the government hospital and was heard greeting her father in a chirpy manner that evening. He has reported that he was told she might be transferred for specialist treatment at the RFM in Manzini; but it would cost E2 800. He didn’t have it and, in any event, the following morning his little daughter was dead. Something hugely conspicuous by its absence from urban and peri-urban Mbabane is an adequate provision of pavements; vital pieces of infrastructure that inform drivers and protect pedestrians. With large volumes of people and traffic on the streets and roads, you must have an ample supply of pavements. They are as important in the protection of life, especially youngsters, as eyes, ears, steering wheels and brake pads.

Majority

On many roads in those areas you have masses of schoolchildren walking within half a metre of certain death every day, with very little being done about it. And while the majority of children and drivers behave decently on such roads, far too many drivers swerve all over the place to avoid the vast number of deep potholes, thus jeopardising the lives of our children. The really selfish actually speed and swerve.

Every reader will have seen examples of this in their own residential area; and horrifyingly so in the approach to one heavily populated primary school, a road also used by many other schoolchildren. Shocking to witness. And the potholes themselves? One incredible example – the terrifying chasm biting into the road opposite the exit of Mbabane Central High School - has  remained unrepaired for well over a year, and not even cordoned off until six weeks ago. Unprotected children in constant mortal danger. Whether it’s a government or council road, that neglect shows a deeply disturbing lack of social responsibility. I would love to see every motorist required, once a year, to make a journey on foot along a selection of dangerous urban roads; there are many. It’s a truly unnerving experience. I’ve done it. But of course you’d still get individuals who would just shrug their shoulders and carry on driving as before. And it only needs one motorist, one accident, to create tragedy and deprive an innocent person of life.

Reflection

Dangerous driving is a reflection of a flawed character; prevention is far more effective than punishment. Static police road checks are all well and good, but they don’t catch the wild drivers. In First World countries there are cameras all over the place. Government evidently treats it as a low priority. We should be placing police officers at known danger zones, fitting them with body cams, to record dangerous driving. That would be oral evidence validated. And rarely in the same place twice. Then let’s see the book thrown at the offenders and make them walk down the high streets displaying a placard ‘I’m a convicted dangerous driver’. Well, of course, that’s too medieval for these modern times of smart clothes and smart phones. But they should at least be sentenced to community service; the men – and it’s nearly always men – having to construct pavements or fill potholes; while wearing bright pink, fluffy overalls!

The purpose of this article is not to allocate blame for the accident - that is the responsibility of the police; nor to criticise the health authorities – I don’t have complete medical details. But to draw attention to our pedestrians, especially the children, deserving the maximum protection, and they’re not getting it. Rest in peace little Angel Simelane.

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: DISPOSABLE NAPPIES
Should government suspend the use of disposable nappies?