Zoleka Mandela on road safety: “Ask world leaders to include road safety in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals”

May 7, 2015


" We should do whatever we can to protect children "

Zoleka Mandela

Every year some 1.3 million people die as a result of a road traffic collision—more than 3,500 deaths each day. And up to fifty million people are injured annually, resulting in countries’ GDP losses estimated at between 1 and 3 per cent, a value of over $500 billion.

Yet this global epidemic has been neglected on the international agenda for many years, and it now requires urgent action if developing countries are to meet specific targets by 2030.

That was the key take away at a World Bank event on Monday with senior officials and representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society. The event, convened by the Bank’s Transport and ICT global practice and Global Road Safety Facility partners, helped mark global road safety week (May 4-7) which this year focuses on improving safety for children.

The event included the participation of high-level panelists from the FIA Foundation, Safe Kids Worldwide, the Bank Group, and special guest and road safety activist Zoleka Mandela, the grand-daughter of Nelson Mandela.

Before heading to New York City where she is attending United Nations-related events, Zoleka, 35, spoke with the Bank’s Transport and ICT global practice on the urgency to protect children on the roads, on why world leaders should include road safety as a priority in the post-2015 SDGs, and on our collective responsibility to act now in order to protect the future. Below is an excerpt of that conversation.

Q: Why is this topic so important to you?
A: You know, I lost my daughter to a drunk-driving accident in 2010, and primarily for me it’s really my way of celebrating her memory, and of course ensuring that no family goes through what my family went through, and really unnecessarily so. I do believe that our children need more protection and I am just here trying to lend my voice and see how I can best contribute to protecting our children.

Q: Precisely, children is the main theme for this year’s road safety week. What do you think it’s the best way to protect our children from unnecessary and deadly road accidents?
A: Fortunately enough this campaign is not just about our children but it’s about our children giving us the answers and telling us what they want, and that is really to be protected on the roads. For instance, we launched a safe schools project back home in South Africa, and the children were obviously at a risk just crossing the roads to go to school, having trucks and cars veering down at the children at about 80 kilometers per hour. The kids just want an education, and I think for us it’s just to ensure that they get that. The children would actually cut a hole through the fence at school to try and get through. So it’s teaching people to have respect for our children on the road; teaching our children, and drivers for that matter, on how to conduct themselves on the road. We need better roads, we need…there is so much I feel that we can do as a community, and just globally. Asking our world leaders to please include road safety in their priorities for the new post-2015 sustainable development goals.

Q: Talking about global action, you are heading to New York City to participate in a United Nations event with various stakeholders. What’s your main message to them?
I think there is a whole lot that we can do as a collective in trying to save our children, and I think we all have a responsibility. We all know somebody that has lost their lives on the road, and believe actually, for that matter, that the children are the future of this world. And I think we should do whatever we can do to protect that.