WATCH: Protest over scholar transport causes traffic chaos on N1 at Beaufort West
Cape Town – The secretary of the ANC Central Karoo region, Windy Plaatjies, has urged Western Cape MEC Debbie Schäfer to meet aggrieved parents and defuse a crisis in Beaufort West.
From early today, angry parents and members of the community, who were angered by a decision by the Western Cape Education Department to cancel a school bus service that had ferried learners to school, closed the N1, with protesters blocking the road with their vehicles and stones, and burning tyres and trash.
Due to emotions running high, Plaatjies urged Schäfer to travel to Beaufort West to meet community leaders.
“Members of the community have closed the N1. They’re waiting for a response from the MEC. They want her to come to Beaufort West. Nobody can go through, either to Johannesburg or Cape Town,” Plaatjies said.
Hundreds of frustrated motorists were stuck on the N1 at Beaufort West amid growing concerns about a heatwave in the area, the SABC reported. Traffic is backed up for several kilometres.
Linda Mani, who is travelling to a funeral in the Eastern Cape, said she has been stuck in traffic since 6am.
“There’s more than 300 to 500 trucks and small cars. It's chaos. I just stepped out of my car and it is like 35 degrees.
"I came here at 6 but the trucks have been here since 4 in the morning.”
The N1 was reopened to traffic at about 12.20pm. Traffic is moving very slowly as trucks and cars have been backed up as far as 10km from the town.
Odwa Mkentane reported that on their first day of school, children as young as seven had to bravely manoeuvre their way through the Great Karoo terrain yesterday, all while keeping a lookout for speeding cars along the N1, which they were forced to cross.
This resulted in them walking up to 12km. The transport was cancelled after the WCED said it provided transport for pupils who lived more than 5km from schools, and according to their database, all the pupils lived within the required radius.
The principals of HM Dlikidla Primary School and Mandlenkosi Secondary School said many of their pupils had arrived late, or not at all, due to the transport setback.
Plaatjies said the cancellation of the scholar transport forced pupils to walk to school from Hillside township, as well as an extension of the area called Graceland.
“This is unacceptable. The WCED also base their argument for the cancellation on a 5 km policy," Plaatjies said.
"The DA cannot govern with a desktop approach when making decisions on serious community matters. We urge the WCED to do real community assessment and get the real facts behind the reasons for the need for school transportation.
“The WCED should not hold our children hostage as they carry out the political agenda of the DA. When you educate a child, you educate a nation.
"Therefore we want to pledge our full support to the Community Task Team. The WCED must reintroduce the school bus service immediately.”