Young children, parents and teachers, blocked roads around several schools in Johannesburg Thursday to protest what they say is reckless driving that has injured students in several recent collisions.
Children as young as three years old demonstrate outside their school in the Johannesburg suburb of Auckland Park.
They wave placards reading ‘Wrong Way!’ and blow vuvuzela trumpets.
A few months ago, the traffic authorities barricaded one side of the school road and declared it a one-way traffic zone during peak hours. But many motorists ignore the one-way signs, roaring down the avenue to avoid a more congested route, and endangering lives in the process.
There are no traffic police here to enforce the law … So parents do. They stand in front of the speeding vehicles, including overloaded minibus taxis, forcing them to stop and turn around.
Disregard for safety
The protest organizer, veteran social activist Hassen Lorgat, says the apparent disregard for the safety of the school children is indicative of the disregard, by some, of social laws.
“We simply want the authorities to do the right thing and protect the children … Often we think that those who break the law here and come very fast, we think it’s only the taxis," said Lorgat. "But they are people in Mercedes Benz’s, they are men, women. At least the women are ashamed by their actions and look away. The men are aggressive and want to fight. This is a manifestation of what happens in our society. People break the law at their whim and fancy, and the powerful especially: Because he can do it, he does it.”
Six-year-old protestor and pupil Tristan Crawford says he’s afraid that a fast car will soon hurt some of his friends.
“They will die and get knocked over," said Crawford. "Taxis came past and we said ‘One way.’ And also cars and they also turned around.”
At one demonstration, Lorgat gives pupils a politics lesson.
“The big word we use is: democracy," said Lorgat. "This is how democracy works, you see. We hope these guys don’t come drive fast, and they don’t hurt us.”
Lorgat has given video footage of motorists driving recklessly near schools and of the protests to the city traffic department.
It responded immediately by sending traffic officers to some of the affected schools. The police warned some offending motorists, and fined others.