‘Children are dying’: Eastern Cape community pleads for almost a decade for speed humps outside school
When parents and learners at Upper Ngqungqu Primary in Elliotdale closed the busy road outside their school, it was after almost 10 years of begging the government to install traffic calming measures. In recent years, eight people have been killed and at least six injured in accidents on this road.
After almost 10 years of pleading for a simple speed hump to slow down traffic, the parents and learners of Upper Ngqungqu Senior Primary School in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape, finally took action.
Joined by community members from the Gobozayo locality and surrounding villages in Mqanduli, they closed the school and set fires on the road.
All they had asked for was a speed hump.
The road is busy, connecting the towns of Elliotdale, Mqanduli and Coffee Bay. Upper Ngqungqu Senior Primary School is at a T-junction on this road.
The protest in October was triggered after yet another child was killed on the road in front of the school.
Seven-year-old Nakilondo Lukuwe Bakala died after being hit by a car. She was the eighth accident victim in recent years.
Others killed in the same spot are Vuyani Mdunyelwa, Khindana Mdunyelwa, Maphahla Wabhala, Liziwe Siganga, Sinethemba Ngquthwana, Nomhle Sindelo and Mangxongo Siganga.
Several children have been injured in pedestrian accidents at this spot, including Lilitha Ntlomeli, Ikho Siganga, Lithalethu Ndima and two victims known as Vuma and Ntoyanto.
“It’s a very painful time for us … young children from that school are losing their lives, it’s not only my daughter,” said Bakala Kim, father of the late Nakilondo.
“Since my daughter died, you are the first one to call me about the death of my child. No government officials have called me,” the emotional father said.
Xolisa Sindelo said he still struggled to accept that his mother, Nomhle Sindelo, died after being hit by a car in 2021.
“My mother was not sick, she was just killed by a speeding car and until today it’s difficult to accept it. She was the one who was responsible for everything and now we are left alone. We are not working, we were all dependent on her … she was hit by a car while trying to cross the road and today we are struggling.
“After my mother’s death, there were other incidents where people were also hit and killed by cars … it is traumatising to see people keep losing their lives like my mother did.”
Nqubela Siganga, uncle of the late Liziwe Siganga, said it seemed the government didn’t care that people kept dying on this stretch of road.
“My nephew Liziwe also died there, coming from Upper Ngqungqu school,” Siganga said.
“We have raised the issue of speed humps with our local municipality and government officials, but until today they haven’t done what we have asked,” Siganga said.
Nontsikelelo Ngquthwana said her younger brother, Sinethemba Ngquthwana, was also hit and killed by a car while coming home from school.
“At the time in 2012, my younger brother was 18 years old and it is still difficult to accept it. What makes things worse is that the government is not building speed humps here … we don’t know what we must do as parents because people are continuing to die here. Even this month, a young child died on this road.
“All we are asking for are speed humps, nothing else,” Ngquthwana said.
Simanye Ndima said her child is no longer able to walk after he was hit by a speeding car while returning from school.
“He is a disabled child now because the government failed to build speed humps… he is now studying in a special school,” she said.
“As parents, all we want is speed humps so that we can be safe and our children can be safe.”
Upper Ngqungqu Senior Primary School SGB chairperson Siyabonga Dyonase said the school feared that more learners would die on the dangerous road.
“The children who are at school now are in danger because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We have asked for these speed humps many years ago, but there is still no intervention,” Dyonase said.
“This negatively affects our school because parents are no longer sending their children to Upper Ngqungqu as they did before… we are afraid that this can lead to the closure of the school,” he added.
“We are pleading with the government to just assist us with speed humps. It is not for the children only – community members are also losing their lives on this road,” he said.
Anele Sikele is among the young people who organised the protest. She said they had been waiting a long time for speed humps.
“Every year they are promising to build us these speed humps but they don’t fulfil their promises. People might think this is a small thing, but it’s a huge problem for us. We are losing our people … they are dying every year,” Sikele said.
“They must put speed humps next to Upper Ngqungqu School and next to the Anglican Church, including at that T-junction.”
No record of applications
Eastern Cape Transport Department spokesperson Unathi Binqose denied that the community had applied for speed humps in 2014, saying there was no record of an application of that kind.
Binqose said the issue of speed humps would need a thorough consultation.
“We are making sure that there is visibility, including people who are assisting children to cross the road,” he said.
“Our officials have come up with a proposal to the community for people to assist pupils to cross the road. We are hoping that the community will accept that proposal.”
When Daily Maverick visited the school recently, there were no signs of any adults helping children to cross the road.
Binqose said the question of speed humps would need a budget. He was unable to say when the government might help.
The Mqanduli community is not alone in this problem. In the Public Protector’s recent probe into service delivery failures in the Eastern Cape, investigators found a school in Mbizana where children were killed on a road adjacent to a school with no traffic calming measures in place.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Service delivery collapse: ‘Gatvol’ Eastern Cape resident reports provincial-wide failures
The report said: “The R61 provincial road across Mbizana is narrow and full of potholes and it has become a source of road carnage. This road also lacks speed humps to reduce speed for the safety of pedestrians and the kids in particular. The area has one school, namely, Mphetshwa Primary, which also serves nearby locations.
“Children cross this busy road to and from the school and during 2020, more than five schoolchildren were hit by speeding cars on the R61 road. The matter was raised with the district municipality and with the office of the MEC for Transport, but no assistance was received by the residents.
“The community is of the view that an underground tunnel would be appropriate, as livestock can also be driven through the tunnel. At the moment, livestock crosses the R61 anywhere and also contribute to accidents.” DM