Mayor sends machinery to fix gravel road hours after Eastern Cape villagers block N2

Tyhalarha village residents say a previous peaceful protest brought no results

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

4 March 2024

Hours after protesting villagers blocked the N2 highway in protest over the deplorable state of the main gravel road, the King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality mayor sent vehicles to start work on the potholed road on Monday. Photos: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Protesters from Tyhalarha village used large rocks and burning tyres to block the N2 between Idutywa and Mthatha in the Eastern Cape on Monday morning, demanding that the gravel roads in their area be repaired immediately.

Protests started around 1am and badly impacted peak traffic on the busy road.

Provincial transport department spokesperson Unathi Binqose said the flow of traffic on the N2 was badly affected by the protest action. Police were seen using rubber bullets to disperse the group from the N2.

According to protesters, the gravel road that runs from the N2 to their village was last maintained 10 years ago. Residents say they protested peacefully about the issue two weeks ago, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.

Resident Nolitha Matomela said at the peaceful protest the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality Mayor Nyaniso Nelani came out to listen to their grievances and promised to send machines to fix the road.

“He asked us to give him at least seven days. We waited and waited but the machinery never arrived. We then sent delegates to his office, and they were told that the mayor was in East London. They left a letter but there was no response. That is why we returned here,” said Matomela.

Nick Sonteya, who was among the representatives from the village sent to mayor Nelani’s office, said they had threatened not to vote if the road was not fixed.

“The road to our area is very bad. Ambulances can’t reach our area. The bridge was built years ago,” said Sonteya.

Residents say emergency vehicles can’t access their village because of the poor state of the main gravel road.

He joined other protesters who sat on the roadside, waiting for Nelani to come address them. “If he doesn’t come, the protest will continue,” he said.

Two hours later, machinery on the backs of large trucks was delivered. Some residents began clapping and ululating at this sight. Nelani and other municipal officials then arrived.

Municipal spokesperson Sonwabo Mampoza confirmed Nelani had visited the protesting community and was now able to honour the promise he made.

“We are calling on everybody to refrain from damaging the existing infrastructure and inconveniencing other road users. Communities are advised to consult their ward councillors for service delivery issues,” said Mampoza.

Police spokesperson Siphokazi Mawisa said protesters left the area peacefully after they were addressed by the municipality.

Repair work on the gravel road is underway.