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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Life and death on the Golden Highway
South Africa's Golden Highway, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, is one of the most dangerous in the continent.

It is tremendously busy and packed with commuters. But it also passes near the squatter camps in the poorest parts of the city, and several schools. For some children, crossing this potentially lethal road is part of their everyday life.

Here, three people whose lives are affected by the Golden Highway tell their stories.

MPHO SHONGWE, 13, SCHOOL CHILD

Every time I come to school and go back home I have to cross in the middle of the Golden Highway.

Johannesburg schoolchildren
The walk to school can be dangerous
Sometimes I cross with my friends, but most of the time I cross alone because my friends live far away from my house.

There are people driving very fast. Some children have already died on the Golden Highway.

But every time you cross you must look, because if you don't look you will be scared every time.

The traffic lights are too far for me to go to them and cross over. There are so many cars. I have to wait until there is a little space and then I have to run. I have to run to the middle, then look again and then run over to the other side of the road.

Once or twice I have nearly been involved in an accident. Once was when I was not looking at the cars, I was talking to my friend.

When I went to cross the road, a car was already next to me. My friend pulled me back.

The car had nearly bumped me. My friend saved my life.

That also happened to him recently, and I did the very same thing, pulling him back, because the car was going to bump him. I saved his life.

We do have to help each other, especially when we walk together, because we may not pay attention to the road. We must watch out for each other.

ROSINAH RANETSI

I am the mother of Tabang Ranetsi. Tabang died on the Golden Highway.

I live at a squatter camp in Johannesburg. The Golden Highway is about 15 minutes away.

Squatter town
The Golden Highway runs past Johannesburg's squatter towns
My child crossed that road to go to school. The children must dodge the cars.

Tabang used to go with other children. Sometimes he was angry or sick. It was when he was sick - and that day he went with other children. I was at work.

My boss came and said 'you must go straight to the school.' I asked why, but he didn't tell me anything.

I found the people at the school standing there - plenty of people, cars, the police. I wanted to find out what was going on there.

And there was my child lying there.

It was bad, bad, bad. I just sat there until I checked the body. Then they let me go home.

I'll never forget.

VINCENT NENE, TAXI DRIVER

The Golden Highway is a long stretch, and it is wide, but it is busy. Children are always crossing.

In daylight it is not difficult to see them, but when it is not daylight it is very difficult.

One day it was dark. It was 30 January. My car light was on, because it was dark.

Car in heavy rain in Johannesburg
Driving conditions can make the roads even more hazardous
I saw in front of my car - on my right-hand-side but in the middle of the car - children in the middle of the road.

I swerved my car from the left-hand side to the right-hand-side. I missed the older children but I hit some smaller children on the left of my taxi.

When I hit them they fell out of the street, because I hit them with the corner of the car.

Immediately the police came. They called the ambulance.

I tried to go to the hospital to see the little girl, but they told me that it was not so bad.

I went, I came and reported an accident to the police. Then somebody came to meet me and told me that the little girl had died.

I felt bad - even now I feel bad because it was me who hit someone in the street.

It was the first time it had happened to me.

I went to that family to say I feel sorry that the accident has happened. But after the child died, I didn't go, because I was afraid.

It's hard for me. Even now when I'm driving, I'm afraid. I'm afraid of what is coming. And I must always pass the place where the accident was, and I know I can't change what happened.




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