THE decision by Government to limit the age of vehicles imported into Zambia is at face value a laudable effort, but the reasons and logic given for the decision are poor and therefore self-defeating.
Two reasons have been advanced, firstly that the cars are old and secondly that these cars are contributing to the large number of accidents in the country.
There is no scientific study or justification to prove that accidents are related to the age of cars or indeed to the importation and therefore the proliferation of vehicles in the country.
Accidents are not simply the function of the numerical age of a motor vehicle, many other factors contribute to this phenomenon.
South Africa, which does not allow the importation of second hand motor vehicles, has one of the highest number of fatalities in the world, many of them by fairly new cars. The International Transport Forum (ITF) Road Safety reports Zambia at 28 road accident fatality rate for 100,000 people. This is compared to Namibia which has 45, Malawi 32, Mozambique 30 and Equatorial Guinea 28.
The correlation therefore between age of cars and number of accidents is not only tenuous but utterly misleading because among the top countries importation of second hand vehicles was banned many years ago.
South Africa will not even allow second hand vehicles destined for Zambia to transit by road. They are expected to be transshipped by carrier.
The other excuse regards carbon monoxide emissions. Again there is no scientific proof to relate age of a vehicle to emission. It is true that older vehicles do emit more carbon monoxide but the scale and number of vehicles plying our Zambian roads cannot be equated to many other countries in the world, including India which until recently did not allow the importation of vehicles.
Therefore if Government is going to limit the importation of vehicles a very cogent reason must be advanced otherwise it could be safely concluded that this is a discriminatory act intended to deprive many Zambians of an opportunity to own a vehicle.
It is almost impossible for a graduate to earn enough money to afford a brand new vehicle, more so that our current lease and purchase terms are steep and certainly not friendly to low income groups.
South Africa could afford to ban imports because it has a thriving motor manufacturing industry which produces thousands of cars every year, and which trade is supported by various credit schemes, meaning that even the lowly paid could afford to buy a vehicle on long term lease.
Those advocating for cheap but reliable imported cars must factor the political implication as victims will ultimately be the middle class who have some excess income with they can afford to invest in a motor vehicle. Our public transport system has yet to be developed to a level where comfort, convenience and reliability attract clientele whose first choice would be to use their own personal vehicles.
Most people in developed countries utilize mass transit transportation because it is reliable, which cannot be said of our own system which is still developing and may perhaps in the future mature to accommodate this market.
For the time being many Zambians save up to buy second hand cars, which have proved reliable in many cases and have been given full value for the money spent.