For years I have been against the re-routing of the N2 national road, which would exclude rural towns of the former Transkei including Mt Frere, Mt Ayliff, Qumbu and Tsolo.
But in just two weeks, a few accidents have brought commerce on this important 2,225 kilometre-long national economic artery to a standstill, and that has convinced me once and for all.
It all started two weeks ago when two trucks collided head-on at the notorious Umzimvubu River cuttings between KwaBhaca and Emaxesibeni, blocking the N2 for the entire day.
I live in KwaBhaca and my office is in Mt Ayliff.
I had to turn around and work from home that day.
Then on Monday I left home bright and early only to be greeted by a three kilometre-long queue of cars stuck at the same Umzimvubu cuttings.
A truck carrying cooking oil dumped its load on Sunday afternoon and cars got stuck there overnight.
A clean up operation was underway when I arrived at 6.30am.
Then on Monday evening I got stuck again at the same spot.
This time a truck carrying couches and other stuff for a furniture shop jackknifed and lost some of its cargo at the exact spot where there was a massive cooking oil spill. Police intervened to stop dozens of looters from nearby villages.
It turns out the cleanup operation earlier didn’t do a sufficient job.
It confirmed my fear in the morning when I saw them using only river sand and brooms to remove the cooking oil that this was a slapdash job that would cause more accidents.
It saddens me because for many years the N2 brought life and some economic activity in these sleepy rural towns and the numerous rural settlements mushrooming along its path.
Any business along the N2 has a much higher chance of being successful compared to a business on a regional road.
But in recent times, the N2 has brought nothing but grief to many companies using the route to ferry goods between Durban and Cape Town.
Numerous trucks in the road freight business have lost their cargo in the most poorly maintained parts of this road network, costing them millions of rands.
It is for this reason that the government – through Sanral – is building the new N2 which branches from Umtata towards Port St Johns and then via the coastline to connect to Port Shepstone and ultimately to Durban.
It’s a project that is costing the taxpayer over R16 billion, but will create an efficient road network and create thousands of jobs.
But I am finally convinced; change is pain but change is good.