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‘We just want a tar road’ – Eastern Cape’s Elliotdale residents express their plight in protest

‘We just want a tar road’ – Eastern Cape’s Elliotdale residents express their plight in protest
Kasa residents protesting for a tar road in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape, on 21 February 2024. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

‘When someone is ill in our area, we pray to the Lord to come fetch them because we know the ambulance can’t.’ This is how one resident of Kasa locality near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape described their plight as the crumbling road in their district makes it difficult and sometimes impossible for anybody to reach them.

Residents from Kasa locality near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape staged a protest on Wednesday, 21 February, demanding a tar road in the area. They say the area’s gravel road, which was built in 1991, is rapidly deteriorating.

The Mbhashe Local Municipality said in its integrated development plan that the roads in the area were dangerous and often the scene of horrific accidents.  

Kasa residents told Daily Maverick they felt abandoned by the government. They said it was appalling that children could not attend school because of the poor road. 

Funani Mangaza (67) said, “The road is in a bad condition, even the bridge has collapsed. Anything can now happen on that bridge; it’s not safe at all.

“We can’t even go to the clinic when it is raining; ambulances don’t drive here and, unfortunately, all these bad things are happening under our black leadership, they don’t care about us as rural residents.

“As elderly people, we are walking long distances to go to the clinic because vehicles can’t drive here, only bakkies are using the road, but when it’s raining even bakkies can’t drive on that road.”  

Another resident, Nosiseko Phuka (43), said residents were pleading with the mayor to intervene.

“We are protesting today to plead with Mbhashe Municipality Mayor Mr [Samkelo] Janda to build us a road. We have been complaining about this road — the road was last built in 1991. It is difficult for our leadership to provide us with services. It has been 30 years now still waiting for the road,” she said.

“We want a tar road, nothing else.”  

Nocingile Dywabasini (65) was one of the residents who met with Janda earlier this year to request a tar road.

“We explained to him about the pain we are going through. When you have a funeral during rainy days you are forced to carry the casket of the dead person for more than 15km because even bakkies can’t drive on that road,” she said. 

“We gave the mayor seven days but he has not yet responded. Our children can’t even go to school when it’s raining. We are not fighting with the mayor; instead, we are pleading to him to give us a tar road.”

Mncedi Bungu, one of the protest leaders, said the gravel road connected more than 15 villages and warned they would continue protesting until the mayor responded.

“We want them to build a tar road and we will continue protesting until they answer our plea. Sick people can’t go to hospital. Some are defaulting on their medication and children can’t go to school,” Bungu said.

Community leader Linda Zingweyi said, “When someone is ill in our area, we pray to the Lord to come fetch them because we know the ambulance can’t.”

The Mbashe Municipality did not respond to requests for comment.

Kasa residents demanding a tar road during the protest in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape, on 21 February 2024. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Burning tyres during the road protest in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape, on 21 February 2024. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

The gravel road that Kasa residents are complaining about in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape, on 21 February 2024.(Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

One of the bridges Kasa residents are complaining about in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape, on 21 February 2024. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Premier addresses the issue

In his State of the Province Address (Sopa) on Thursday, Premier Oscar Mabuyane acknowledged that rural roads “enable access to schools, health facilities and economic centres for our communities”. 

“The majority of our roads are gravel roads. Due to climate change, which comes with floods, the work that is done on gravel roads is washed away. Some of the yellow plant [vehicles] that we committed to buy have arrived and will be deployed to municipalities because they are closer to communities. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Grader sent to save Eastern Cape’s vital Mazeppa Bay Road breaks down

“[The provincial] government will buy more plant [vehicles] in the coming years to increase the capacity of maintaining gravel roads,” he said.

“A major concern for this administration has been the rural bridges that are washed away by floods. They pose a risk to human life. We plan to build 36 bridges under the Welisizwe Bridges Programme.

“The construction of the first 19 rural Bailey bridges in Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo and Amathole districts has started, and will be completed within the next six months. This will be followed by the construction of 17 additional bridges in Joe Gqabi and Chris Hani districts.”

The SA Human Rights Commission is conducting an inquiry into the state of the province’s roads. DM

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