Pongola horror crash: Our learners are dying while government fails to ensure proper transport and safer roads

Issued by Dr Imran Keeka, MPL – DA KZN Spokesperson on Education
20 Sep 2022 in Press Statements

The DA today visited the scene of last week’s horror crash, near Pongola, in which 18 primary school children, a teacher and a driver lost their lives after the bakkie they were travelling in was hit by a truck overtaking on a solid line.

The oversight formed part of a KZN Legislature initiative which also saw Members pay their respects to the families of the deceased.

Our visit has confirmed that 20 people died as a result of this tragedy, rather than 21 as originally reported. It has also been established that a total of 13 families were affected, with one family losing three members. Funeral arrangements are currently being finalised and discussions with the families are ongoing.

It is difficult to convey the absolute heartbreak that these families are experiencing. As a parent myself, visiting the accident scene and interacting with educators and parents has been emotionally devastating. While they are currently receiving psycho-social support in line with the DA’s call, this will have to be ongoing. We remain committed to ensuring this.

According to the Department of Education, preliminary reports on the accident point to human error and failure to adhere to the rules of the road.

This confirms what we already know – that KZN’s roads have become a death trap. Conditions in general are unacceptable while the high number of trucks are an ongoing threat to the safety of all.

In September last year, the DA revealed that almost 10 000 KZN learners were being transported illegally as a result of shortcomings related to the province’s Learner Transport Programme – run by the DoE and implemented by the Department of Transport. The information formed part of a parliamentary reply from former KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, to questions posed by the DA.

Equally damning was the former MECs admission that he was aware that this was unlawful in terms of public transport. The MEC also claimed that budget issues were hampering the roll-out of the programme. At the time the DA called on the MEC to;

– Table solutions within 60 days. This never happened

– Report back on the true number of KZN learners needing transport and an accurate report on how many learners walk to and from school every day. The MEC and his Department ignored our requests

– Ensure that discussions were held with KZN’s Transport MEC and her Department in a bid to ensure that the informal learner transport sector was made safer through regulations. To our knowledge, this never happened.

The reality is that this ANC-run government has failed to honour its commitment to parents and learners for safe and reliable learner transport for years and years.

The DA has also made numerous calls to KZN transport authorities when it comes to our roads which include;

– Proper road maintenance on all provincial roads

– Speed reduction measures including speed humps or cameras and;

– High visibility of law enforcement on all major routes, particularly so-called hotspots.

To date, there is no evidence of any of this taking place.

This government has blood on its hands. One child’s life lost due to government inaction is one life too many and immediate and viable solutions must be implemented. It is not enough to conduct investigations once horrific accidents have taken place – without making real changes.

The DA will insist on answers. Government can no longer claim to care while it fails to deliver.