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HAZARDOUS DRIVE

Visitors warned to be alert on Cape Town’s N2 ‘Hell Run’

Visitors warned to be alert on Cape Town’s N2 ‘Hell Run’
Illustrated image: Smashed window of a car. (Photo: EPA / Valdrin Xhemaj) | Law enforcement in Nyanga. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais) | N2 signage (Photo: Supplied) | The N2 inbound to Cape Town near the Borcherds Quarry exit to Nyanga (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

With the festive season fast approaching, Cape Town is expected to see a surge in the number of visitors – many of whom will be travelling on the notorious ‘Hell Run’ on the N2. The freeway leading to and from Cape Town International Airport remains a hotspot for attacks on motorists.

The “Hell Run” – a notoriously crime-ridden stretch of road on the N2 freeway in Cape Town – remains a hotspot for stone-throwing attacks on motorists.

In the past year, the South African National Road Agency’s (Sanral) detection system responded to more than 200 crime events on the N2 and R300 in Cape Town. These stretches of road are high-priority zones closely monitored by the Freeway Management System (FMS), which is overseen by Sanral.

Meanwhile, attacks on motorists continue unabated.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Families of stoning victims on Cape Town’s N2 ‘Hell Run’ are still waiting for justice

Sanral’s western region manager, Randall Cable, told Daily Maverick that priority sectors are determined by all road authorities and law enforcement. Cable said the responsibility for safety on the N2 fell under the City of Cape Town and Western Cape government, city law enforcement and SAPS.

“Sanral is not a law enforcement agency, but works closely with them to support their activities,” he said.

Cable said Sanral is the road authority “responsible for the road environment and engineering aspects on the portion of the N2. The FMS is a joint initiative with the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government as it covers portions of freeways that fall under their jurisdictions as well. It collects freeway statistics of all incidents, including criminal and safety and security incidents.”

“The freeway statistics are analysed monthly and have indicated portions of the N2, R300, N1 and N7 as high-priority sections. This is a year-long initiative and not limited to the festive season,” he continued.

“The majority of these incidents on the N2 were robbery incidents, where stationary vehicles were targeted and attacked, followed by a decreased rate of smash and grabs at intersections,” said Cable.

Daily Maverick has reported on several incidents of stone-throwing on the N2 and other connecting roads in recent months:

  • In March 2023, Leonie van der Westhuizen died after a rock shattered the car window and struck her in the head, triggering cardiac arrest. The Van der Westhuizen’s were reportedly directed by Google Maps via Nyanga because their planned route was closed.
  • In July, a 21-year-old student from Inscape in Stellenbosch, Lucilla Vlok, had her jaw fractured when a rock was hurled through her car window while she was driving on the N2 to Cape Town International Airport.
  • Most recently, in October, Los Angeles couple Jason and Kate Zoladz were en route to Cape Town International Airport via Philippi when a brick shattered the car window, forcing them to stop. Four men approached their rental car and robbed them at gunpoint.

A 55-year-old tourist from Connecticut in the US was the latest victim. He was shot in the face and robbed on Friday, 3 November after landing at Cape Town airport and directed by a navigation service through Nyanga to Simon’s Town, News24 reported.

Western Cape police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk told Daily Maverick on Tuesday that the circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

“A case of attempted murder and robbery with a firearm was registered at Mowbray and will be transferred to Nyanga for further investigation,” he said.

He said no arrests had been made and that further investigation would be conducted by provincial detectives for serious and violent crimes.

‘Zero impact’

Marc Volker, the founder and CEO of the Safe N2 Project – which is aimed at tracking largely underreported street crime in the Western Cape and warning people of potential road threats – said police highway patrols had not been effective.

“The issues regarding the highway are very prevalent. They escalate every time and the safety and security staff intensifying efforts in terms of patrols and visible policing has zero impact because it does not slow it down,” he said.

“The response has not been effective at all for years and the reaction from law enforcement or the safety and security departments has not yielded any long-term solution.”

Discussions with Google

Lyndon Khan, spokesperson for Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, said the mayor and Cape Town Tourism met staff from Google Maps on 2 November to discuss safe route recommendations to and from Cape Town International Airport.

“Fruitful discussions were held and the work will now be taken forward by Google technicians and Cape Town traffic and tourism authorities,” said Khan.

Daily Maverick sent queries to Google Maps, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Sporadic incidents 

The spokesperson for the City of Cape Town’s metro police department, Ruth Solomons, told Daily Maverick last month that the incidents of stone-throwing were random and did not follow a clear pattern.

“Although the city’s Public Emergency Communication Centre and Emergency Policing and Incident Command register service requests and/or calls for assistance in related incidents, SAPS is the leading crime prevention authority and the majority of incidents are reported directly to SAPS,” said Solomons.

“It should be noted that stone-throwing incidents are sporadic and do not follow a clear pattern. Complaints of stone-throwing are sent to enforcement agencies close to the location,” she said.

“All City of Cape Town enforcement departments, including specialised units such as the Highway Patrol Unit, will act and support SAPS if notified about incidents or when officers come across such incidents.”

In response to questions from Daily Maverick about plans put in place ahead of the festive season, Cape Town Tourism spokesperson Briony Brookes told Daily Maverick last month they encouraged travellers to use the resources provided and to contact their team if they needed assistance.

“We have our travel-wise platform that includes a ‘safety in Cape Town’ section, which provides up-to-date safety information, practical tips and emergency contact numbers,” said Brookes.

“We also distribute these safety tips in brochures and bookmarks, and Cape Town Tourism regularly does room drops at hotels in hotspot areas… SAPS and law enforcement also hand these tips out during visitor safety activations.” DM

Additional reporting by Victoria O’Regan.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Time to start handing out some full metal jackets

  • Diederik Hattingh Hattingh says:

    The stat I’m interested in is how often does an incident like this happen per cars on the route. That streach is very busy, so in my head the risk is about the same as getting struck by lightning

    • Ben Harper says:

      Seriously? Your comparing a malicious act of violence with the intent to kill people to a natural weather phenomenon? Suggest you get your head read

  • Iam Fedup says:

    It would really be nice if a few ANC and EFF MPs and ministers experienced such and attack too. (Not that I’m optimistic that they have the nous to actually SOLVE the problem.)

  • Steven D says:

    It is not difficult for Google Maps and Apple Maps to update their software to include no-go zones for people who aren’t residents of Cape Town – Nyanga, Phillipi, Khayelitsha, etc. The software creators can easily tell when a phone’s owner is not a regular visitor to the area and when creating routes to destinations, the software can pop up a ‘dangerous route’ alert, instead directing people on longer but safer routes.

    It’s really not hard to implement.

    • Mario Cremonte says:

      I agree. But everyone should be alerted on their GPS, irrespective!

    • Bob Kuhn says:

      Agreed, its high time Google and other mapping navigation services update their “recommended” routes taking account of the high crime in SA, which the world pays no attention to in this marxist tyranny.

  • virginia crawford says:

    I have never driven to or from an airport in a foreign country, Google maps or not. I use public transport or a taxi because I don’t want to get lost or land up somewhere dodgy. The safe option is to take a taxi or Uber: more expensive but safer. Having said that perhaps the Department of Tourism needs to get Bheki Cele fired – our unpoliced roads and rampant crime affect every aspect of our lives. Be alert? What exactly does that mean in this situation?

    • Donal Slemon says:

      The issue with taxis or ubers is that often the drivers themselves won’t know (0r care?) whether the route the GPS plots is safe, so a foreigner is at the mercy of their choices.
      I had this with a family member taking an uber back from Somerset west to Kenilworth: luckily she sent me a link to her route and I saw that it was plotted to go via Phillipi and manenberg. I rang her immediately and informed her so she could instruct the driver to remain on the N2 all the way.

      But yes, people should not have to face these threats. The problem is adequate policing and law enforcement.

      • td _a says:

        I always tell Europeans/Americans who visit SA that if you get close to any place that looks like its from District 9, immediately turn around.
        They grow up really naive believing everywhere is fine, have heard crazy stories from people who have entered neighbourhoods i would never go

  • Paul Hjul says:

    I thought highway robbery was a medieval problem. Perhaps the emergence of Zuma-aligned feudalism and fiefdoms means we should be expecting more medieval problems in South Africa. This stretch of road, the minister for transport being robbed on a highway in Gauteng …

  • dirkvandermerwe15 says:

    My father in law ended up in Tygerberg earlier this year. Brick to the head close to the R300 on the N2. Almost died. Never felt so helpless, no way the perp could be identified or be held accountable. Truly sad situation.

  • Lionel Snell says:

    Key information missing is WHEN attacks take place. Does it happen at rush when cars are slow? At night? When roads are quiet?

    • Ben Harper says:

      It’s random, happens all hours of the day and night. They used to hang bricks from the bridges at night to catch cars in the windshield

  • Coen Gous says:

    Few incidents of locals living in the dangerous areas are ever reported to the media. Their lives must a live with continuous fear, whether it be robbers, or gangs. But it is not just the N2. The N7 is equally dangerous, and likely many, many more roads

    • Ben Harper says:

      The issues on the N7 are limited to the area adjacent to Dunoon whereas the N2 is a much longer stretch, sometimes incidents happen close to Somerset West

  • Tony Eva says:

    Google maps still show the shortest road going through Nyanga. Super dangerous area at night.

  • Leslie van Minnen says:

    Our “ERSTWHILE” Minister of transport has been robbed on a highway, with VIP protectors present paid by the taxpayer. Oh how shocking that this could happen to one of the elite. Is the minister even aware of the situation of violence within the taxi industry never mind on PRASA property and trains ETC? The average motorist is exposed to criminal acts on the road’s on a daily basis. Now she has been exposed to the new South Africa created by the ANC is she and the minister of Police going to do something to protect the non elite?
    I note that one of our comments community has indicated that perhaps the minister of tourism should try and get Cele fired. Do you actually expect this from a minister who jumps ship every time she can get something out of it. Not sure which party she will join after the election so don’t hold your breath. At the moment she is to busy handing out taxpayers money to the tourism industry. If your black that is. More handouts to the select as the election draws nearer, Typical ANC strategy. Buy votes.

  • athene stephanou says:

    Can google not add a high crime incident zone on the GPS ! – I understand that so many millions of South Africans live in very dangerous areas but there are physical signs in Lavender hill and Kommetjie(that I have seen) where incidents of crime are high this really needs to be made clear on google maps.

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