- Pongola residents say that the horror accident that claimed the lives of 19 school children was bound to happen.
- The community has raised concerns before about reckless truck driving on the N2.
- Police embarked on a manhunt for the truck driver believed to be responsible for the accident.
The horrific truck crash that killed 19 school pupils and two adults in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Friday was bound to happen, the local community in the area have said.
Residents of Pongola say recklessness by truck drivers who travel on the N2 has become commonplace.
On Friday, 19 school pupils and two adults lost their lives after a truck, travelling in the oncoming lane while overtaking another truck, crashed into a Toyota Hilux bakkie transporting the children on the N2.
The pupils were between the ages five and 12. Reports indicate that the two adults were the bakkie driver and another passenger.
The truck driver involved in the crash has since been arrested after handing himself over to police on Saturday. He initially fled the scene.
Concerned resident Adrian Chaning-Pearce told News24 that the main issue was the destruction of the rail and ports in the area, which have led to coal being transported by road.
"[Truck] drivers just drive however they want to, and some of the truck companies don’t pay their drivers properly, they pay per load," he added.
Irrespective of the endless concerns raised about the road, law enforcement remained outdated, Chaning-Pearce said.
"Pongola communities using and living along the N2 are being terrorised, and [there have been warnings] that there will be problems. We have stated to the authorities that [what has happened] was only a matter of time."
The KwaZulu-Natal traffic department said that in the footage of the accident circulating, the truck is seen speeding excessively, overtaking on a double barrier line, and clearly violating all traffic regulations.
"The truck was travelling from Piet Retief to [Pongola] and police have opened a case of culpable homicide and negligent driving," the department said.
Transport MEC Sipho Hlomuka said an investigative team had worked around the clock to arrest the truck driver.
"It is clear that the truck driver violated all the laws in the book. This is the kind of behaviour that is causing fatal crashes and it is unacceptable. The driver must face the music and we will be monitoring developments in this case.
"There is no excuse for such driver behaviour. It is painful that the death toll has now increased to 21. Once again, we wish to send our deepest condolences to all affected families, other fellow learners, teachers and members of the school governing bodies," he said.
Hlomuka also called for calm after one truck was torched by angry residents and other vehicles stoned on the N2 in Pongola on Friday night.
Police and members of the South African National Defence Force are currently monitoring the situation in the area.