Government should immediately ban the use of the infamous banana boats if more lives are to be saved on our waterways, former Transport Minister William Harrington has said.
Mr Harrington said statistics indicate that banana boats were responsible for and were involved in more fatal accidents since they were introduced, than any other water vessel.
“Unlike the flat-bottomed vessels used mainly in Western Provinces which are very stable due to their design, the banana boat because of its rounded shape is unstable, especially when their loads are not evenly balanced and spread out.
“Whereas there are very few or no accidents reported involving barges in Western Province accidents involving banana boats is a regular occurrence over the years,” he said.
Mr Harrington demanded that Government should order the redesigning of the banana boats to guarantee safety of passengers. A total of 25 people died on Kariba after the banana boat in which they were sailing capsized.
The 25 included 22 primary school pupils, the PTA chairperson, a teacher and a child. And U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield has said he was overwhelmed by the sadness of the tragedy that claimed the precious lives of so many Zambian children and adults who started off their journey in the spirit of celebration for their country.
In a statement issued to the Daily Nation by US embassy Public Affairs Officer, she expressed her condolences over the Lake Kariba boating tragedy. “We wish to express sincere condolences on behalf of the American people to the friends and family members of the 25 victims of the October 24 Lake Kariba boat accident, “We join the people and Government of Zambia in mourning the loss of the victims,” Ms Thomas Greenfield said.
National Restoration Party (NAREP) president Elias Chipimo suggested that the Ministry of Education should ensure that schools in rural communities that rely on river transportation are taught mandatory life skills such as surviving in water, as a part of their curricula. Mr Chipimo said the deaths of the young people who capsized in Lake Kariba in Gwembe should not be in vain. “We wish to offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the boat that capsized en route to Kalelezhi in Gwembe carrying several school children. We ask the good Lord to provide comfort to the bereaved families in this painful hour.” he said. Mr Chipimo said the fact that the majority of the victims were from one primary school, made the tragedy even harder to bear for the affected community. “Over the years, we have lost young, promising lives in similar incidents and their deaths have not resulted in any fundamental review of how we can ensure the safety of all modes of transportation, particularly for those living in rural communities,” he said.
Mr Chipimo suggested that life jackets should be compulsory for all river transportation and Government should spare no expense in supporting communities and enforcing regulations to this effect.
“The Education Ministry should further ensure that schools take the responsibility of protecting their pupils even if it means denying them the opportunity to venture on water if the means of transportation pose an unnecessary risk to the children under their care,” he said.
Mr Chipimo added that life was always far more precious than the adventure that was being pursued.