Farmers in the Free State met with Premier Sefora Ntombela and police, roads and transport MEC William Bulwane yesterday (7 June 2022) to personally raise their concerns on the closure of the R30 road. The encounter ended in an appointment for a follow-up meeting.
A short section of the R30 between Allanridge and Bothaville, flanked on either side by dam water and without railings, was closed for traffic last week by provincial government due to a high number of road fatalities reported in recent months.
But farmers are upset by their local government’s move, saying that they had not been consulted beforehand and that the road was a strategic route for delivering their harvests to nearby silos and markets.
To build a bridge or not?
After waiting for the premier to arrive for about three hours, farmers told Ntombela and Bulwane during yesterday’s meeting that building a bridge, as is apparently deemed necessary by the government’s consulting engineers, seemed excessive. Furthermore, that the temporary measure was the wrong move.
“Closing this road is like stopping the economy,” said Uys van Heerden, a farmer in the area. “Building a bridge on this road will be terrible for the farmers here. Barriers must be erected next to the road to prevent accidents.”
“We just need to prevent the water from reaching the road [and] we have been consulting our members with regard to that.”
New meeting date set
Addressing the small crowd of farmers, Bulwane reiterated that several site visits made it clear to him that it was essential to close the road while they found a permanent solution.
The R30 had claimed 29 lives in the past three months.
“There was a 22-seater minibus which overturned here and six people died here,” he said. “There was also a farmer [returning] from the Nampo event who overturned and later died in hospital.”
Meanwhile, Ntombela said that she was aware of the road’s closure being a problem for farmers. She has therefore called a meeting with “all relevant stakeholders” to find a way forward.
The meeting is set to take place this Friday (10 June).
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.