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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Pongola Mayor supports community on N2 trucks ban, says safety is more important

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A meeting between the oPhongolo Mayor and the community who barred trucks from using the N2 through their neighbourhood earlier this week failed to yield positive results for truckers as the angry community members demanded close monitoring of trucks by the municipality.

The angry community started their blockade on Monday, and according to sources, communities have vowed to ensure there is no movement of trucks in the area until a meeting is held next week.

The route is used by thousands of heavy-duty vehicles transporting coal from Mpumalanga coalfields to Richards Bay Harbour.

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Acting mayor of Pongola Bheki Thwala said members of the community decided to block roads as they fear truck movements in the area were not being monitored.

Thwala said the community feared this would put pupils who are returning to school on Wednesday at risk.

In September last year, 18 children between the ages of five and 13 and a teacher died on the N2 near Pongola after a truck crashed into their vehicle.

The children were being transported home in the back of a bakkie when, according to the accident report, the truck driver drove in the oncoming lane for 1.2km.

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Thwala said after the accident, authorities promised they would monitor trucks for speeding and roadworthiness.

He said that was done and everything was running smoothly, but the monitoring stopped suddenly.

“That has angered the community. They fear for the children’s lives as schools reopen on Wednesday. Truck drivers are speeding and communities don’t want a repeat of what happened last year. The closure of the road is a move by the community to call all relevant stakeholders to come and engage [with] them regarding the matter,” said Thwala.

He said he met the community and also spoke with truck authorities about the road closure.

He said on Monday next week there will be a meeting between the truck authorities, the community and the municipality to plot a way forward.

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“The community will compile a formal invitation and distribute it to truck owners to come and engage them. They also advised that trucks should not move into the area until the meeting is held. There is a lot of traffic movement whenever schools are open. There are also pedestrians who are schoolchildren. Speeding trucks put them at risk.

“As a mayor, the safety of the community is a priority. I understand the economy will be affected but I have a responsibility to ensure the community is safe. The economy will be affected, but it will bounce back in a few days. To avoid a situation where trucks are damaged or torched, and communities’ lives are put at risk, we have decided to side with the community,” said Thwala.

Some trucks have already turned to alternative routes, the R34 and R66, causing serious traffic congestion.

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