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What Cape Town is doing about the N2 “Hell Run”

A recent attack on a university student travelling to Cape Town International Airport has renewed the debate regarding the mother city’s infamous stretch of the N2 highway known as the “Hell Run.”

The section of the national road that runs from Cape Town’s city centre towards Somerset West has a long-running reputation as one of the most dangerous routes in the country, not just because of the high number of accidents that occur on it, but also because of the high levels of crime and civil unrest that often threaten passing motorists.

A known problem

A quick Google search will reveal articles dating back to the early to mid-2000s reporting on victims of the so-called Hell Run, the 45km-long stretch of the N2 in Cape Town that runs through areas of the Cape Flats like Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, and Mitchell’s Plain.

While the exact methods and locations may vary, the incidents typically involve suspects throwing rocks and other items at passing cars either as an act of vandalism or as an attempt to break a window and force the driver to pull over, whereupon the occupants may be robbed or hijacked.

The most recent example of this involved a university student, who said a man was standing by the side of the road and eyeing passing vehicles before she heard a loud bang against her window, reported Daily Maverick.

A rock had been thrown at her car, shattering the window and hitting her in the process. Other motorists have reported being hit with things like water pipes, and one woman said a concrete block was dropped onto her car from Nyanga bridge, denting the roof and smashing the windscreen.

Other violent occurrences include smash-and-grabs during rush hour traffic when most vehicles are at a standstill, or spikes put out in the road to pop tyres and force drivers to stop.

These incidents occur at all times of the day and are most prevalent on both the Cape Town and Somerset West routes leading up to the airport, as motorists are often in a hurry and are not paying as much attention to their surroundings.

Student hit by a rock on the N2 Hell Run this July. Source: Daily Maverick

What is being done

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Pojie told the Daily Maverick on Thursday, 27 July, that no arrests had been made in connection with the attack on the student.

However, he said static police patrols have been established at multiple strategic points along the highway and high-density patrols have been increased to build police visibility and ensure better safety for all road users.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security, Alderman JP Smith, said that the city uses various CCTV networks to monitor known crime hotspots and redirect its law enforcement resources when potential threats are identified.

“Where possible, our enforcement agencies will conduct patrols of hotspot areas, but due to the many demands on our services, it is not possible to maintain a continuous static presence at any one particular spot,” he said.

The city has tried a number of different measures over the years to limit access to the N2, such as erecting concrete fences near the townships or putting steel cages on the bridges as both a form of suicide prevention, and a way to stop criminals throwing objects at vehicles below, but these methods have proved ineffective as people and even livestock are still able to get onto the road.



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