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The treacherous single-lane section of Beyers Naude Drive past Zandspruit has been upgraded and widened, and a pedestrian bridge has been built.
DESCRIBED by the community as the “road of death”, Beyers Naude Drive through Zandspruit and Northriding is rapidly changing its notorious image into that of well-oiled thoroughfare truly honouring a great South African.

Premier Nomvula Mokonyane opens the upgraded section of Beyers Naude DrivePremier Nomvula Mokonyane opens the upgraded section of Beyers Naude DriveThe full road is a 30km main route through northwestern Joburg. It stretches from the University of Johannesburg in Auckland Park, through Melville, Roosevelt Park, Northcliff, Blackheath, Fairland, Randpark Ridge and Honeydew to Northriding, where it passes the teaming informal settlement of Zandspruit.
This busy stretch – once just single lanes in each direction, with shacks huddled up against the road and taxis stopping and starting at random to collect fares – is infamous for the number of deaths occurring on it. As a result, it has been upgraded to a dual-carriageway. A pedestrian bridge spans the tar, so people can cross safely.

The official opening ceremony of the newly upgraded section of the road, held on 7 March at the African Leadership Academy, was attended by high ranking officials, municipal heads and members of the Naude family, among others. They included Rehana Moosajee, the portfolio head of transport in the City; the premier of Gauteng, Nomvula Mokonyane; Ismail Vadi, the MEC for roads and transport; Ilse, Johann and Rita Naude; and Maureen Schneeman, the ward councillor of Zandspruit.

Watch a video of the official opening of a new pedestrian bridge over the upgraded Beyers Naude Drive.
“Today, Beyers Naude Drive is not a road not taken or less travelled by. Tens of thousands of our people use it every day to get to work, schools and other places of interest,” said Vadi.

“The increasing traffic volumes on this route necessitated its upgrading to a dual carriageway. In addition, in response to a request by members of the community from Zandspruit, a reinforced concrete pedestrian bridge has been constructed to promote the safe crossing of pedestrians.”

The total cost of the upgrades was R90-million, he explained.

One of the critical components of this project was its job creation potential, noted Vadi. “Through the Expanded Public Works Programme, 64 women and youth were given temporary job opportunities and skills for use into the future. A further 80 were trained in computer skills to enable then to enter the job market.”

NaudeIlse Naude at the opening of the upgraded road sectionPedestrian walkways and cycling lanes are being built along the road between Marina Drive and Juice Road. A facility for housing taxis and buses and will also have room for small, medium and micro enterprises.
“It is envisaged that from here, buses and taxis will connect commuters to 22 destinations. This new phase will take up to nine months to complete and will cost a further R31-million.”

Beyers Naude
Speaking about Christiaan Frederick Beyers Naude, the anti-apartheid activist after whom the road is named, Vadi said: “I never had the privilege of meeting the late Dr Beyers Naude, although I’ve heard and read about him many a time. So, not having met the man, how do I pay tribute to one of the most influential Christian personalities of our time and one of the great heroes of our struggle?”

He quoted the last stanza of a poem by Robert Frost, entitled “The Road Not Taken” to capture the essence of Naude’s life:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Vadi explained his interpretation of the poem, that it entailed making inevitable choices between two roads in life. “In 1960, in the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre – which we will also commemorate later this month, Dr Naude was confronted with such a choice in life. He chose the road less travelled by his contemporaries.”

In this, Vadi noted, Naude proved Alexis de Tocqueville wrong. The latter had written in his seminal work, Democracy in America: “No man can struggle with advantage against the spirit of his age and country, and however powerful a man may be, it is hard for him to make his contemporaries share feelings and ideas which run counter to the general run of their hopes and desires.”

Naude was born in Roodepoort on 10 May 1915. He was named after a close friend of his father, a Boer general in the Afrikaner rebellion of 1914. He studied at the University of Stellenbosch, where he met his wife, Ilse. In 1940, he became a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church.

The pedestrian bridgeThe pedestrian bridge will save many livesHe was an Afrikaner who grew up to believe in the political mission and racial destiny of his people to rule South Africa, noted Vadi. In this regard he served his volk and became a trusted member of the Broederbond.
But the Sharpeville Massacre shook the foundations of his upbringing, said Vadi. The subsequent consultations of the World Council of Churches upheld the right of all people to own land in the country in which they were born, to contribute to the way it was governed, and rejected the theological basis for apartheid.

This stance at the Cottesloe Consultation was in contrast to the beliefs of the Dutch Reform Church. From that moment, he chose the road less travelled and left the fold. His departure from the church led to his joining the Christian Institute.

Vadi said: “His resignation from the Broederbond and his apparent betrayal of the volk by giving secret Broederbond documents to Albert Geyser – who was not a member of the bond – led to his isolation and rejection by his own volk. They felt that he had betrayed their trust and the volk. For this, he and his family paid a price beyond any measure.”

On 19 October 1977, Naude was served with a banning order and between that time and 1984, he was severely restricted. After his unbanning in 1985, he succeeded Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches.

In his role, he called for the release of political prisoners, especially for the release of Nelson Mandela, and he was involved in the negotiations with the banned African National Congress.

Mokonyane, who also addressed the crowd, reiterated the description Mandela gave to Naude on his 80th birthday: “His life is a shining beacon to all South Africans, both black and white. It demonstrates what it means to rise above race, to be a true South African.”

Executive mayor Amos Masondo visits Beyers and Ilse Naude in 2004Executive mayor Amos Masondo visits Beyers and Ilse Naude in 2004This statement captured the essence of what Oom Bey, as he was fondly called, lived and fought for, she said. “It is a reflection of what Oom Bey epitomised in the context of institutionalised racial prejudice and inequality as well as state-sponsored brutality and violence.
“He understood that only through self-sacrifice and commitment can justice and peace be realised in South Africa. It is through the popular struggle that South Africa can be home to all those who live in it. Indeed, his hand and faith was strengthened by divinity and the apartheid goliath inevitably fell in time for him to witness the birth of a free, non-racial and democratic nation,” noted Mokonyane.

Among the many things he did in his fight against apartheid, Oom Bey was also one of the first white people who, in 2000, signed the Declaration of Commitment by white South Africans, a public document that acknowledged that apartheid had damaged black South Africans.

“We know that [this section of] Beyers Naude Drive was very narrow and carried large traffic volumes. We are also aware that this road is strategically central in that it connects communities with the major industrial and commercial centres in our province.

“That is why we are proud that the road has since been completed together with the pedestrian bridge, which will assist with the reduction of fatalities,” Mokonyane said.

It links the inner city of Joburg to the far northwestern regions of Gauteng and has an important role in enabling easy movement of goods and people across these sections.

In conclusion, Vadi said: “One can only hope that the road less travelled by Naude becomes the guiding path for us all and that Beyers Naude Drive becomes a living testimony and daily reminder of values by which he lived.”

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