An application of the ‘issue attention cycle’ to the transport sector: The case of public transport accidents in Zimbabwe, 2000-2014.
Gweshe, Gay Tapiwa
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The study presents the findings of the research on: the application of the Issue Attention Cycle to the policy agenda setting in the transport sector. The case study was on the policy problem of public transport accidents in Zimbabwe, 2000-2014. The cycle-model was developed by Anthony Downs in 1972 who observed that public attention towards problems is generally short-lived. The cycle has five stages which proceed in a logical sequence. The first stage is the pre-problem stage which is then followed by alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm. The introduction of a change will lead to a realization of the cost of change resulting in the gradual decline in the public‘s interest and lastly the problem reaches the post problem stage. The study made case references to South Africa and Malaysia, bringing out the relevance of the cycle-model to the accident-related cases in these counties. The key informants used in this study were drawn from the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, the Parliament of Zimbabwe and Media houses. These key informants were purposively selected based on their specialized knowledge of the sector. Documentary search was also utilized during the data collection process. The inquiry hypothesized that government tends to intervene immediately after a peak period in the occurrence of public transport accidents. However, findings revealed that government policy intervention proceeds in a periodic and cyclical fashion. Even if the cycle was developed in a different context in developed countries, it is also relevant to the developing countries. The cycle is not limited to a specific time-frame. The cycle can have a short duration, meaning that it can at times be limited to a specific once-off accident event, for instance, the illustrated South African case and Missing Malaysian plane case studies. The model can be related to events stretching over a longer period of time. In this case study, the time frame was 2000-2014. Some of the evidence from the study confirmed that public attention is short-lived and influences the nature of government intervention process in Zimbabwe. Findings also revealed that the public and media attention cycles to the public transport accidents are generally low. The media has a crucial role to play in policy agenda setting in the Zimbabwean transport sector. However, the issue attention cycle does not explain much on the government behaviour, that is, what really happens when the government is setting the agenda. Its main focus was on the nature of public attention and how this influences the government to act in response to an increase in prominence of the problem in the public agenda. The researcher suggested a further study on applying other models that explain the government behaviour in agenda setting process. The cycle best explains the patterns of public attention in more detail more than the explanation given to the activities of the government. Findings showed that the Zimbabwean public transport sector has an adequate legal framework which regulates the transport sector. The major challenge being faced in the transport sector falls within the enforcement of these frameworks. Issues such as lack of coordination and corruption were cited to be some of the major challenges weakening the legislative frameworks. Institutionally, Zimbabwe has too many institutions which often clash in the operations hence resulting in lack of inter-organizational integration within the sector. The study highlighted some policy options that could be adopted by the stakeholders to address the issues of public transport accidents as well as the challenges overwhelming the institutional and legislative frameworks. These include the need to have a Public Transport Authority.
Additional Citation InformationGweshe, G.T. (2015). An application of the ‘issue attention cycle’ to the transport sector: The case of public transport accidents in Zimbabwe, 2000-2014. [Unpublished masters thesis]. University of Zimbabwe.
University of Zimbabwe
SubjectRoad Traffic Accidents
National Transport Policy
Public Transport Authority
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe