Branding of potholes – when does it become illegal?

Branding of potholes – when does it become illegal?
An angry resident tagged the ruling party at a pothole in Johannesburg. (Photo: Supplied)

By now many might have noticed markings on roads and potholes, either by irate citizens or those fixing them. But is it legal to mark potholes?

Angry residents have been showing frustration at a lack of service delivery by tagging the ANC when they spray-paint bright colours around potholes to alert drivers to the danger.

This might even have worked in certain areas of Johannesburg as some potholes were fixed after pictures of the painted road surfaces were shared on social media. Other political parties, the DA in particular, have joined the unauthorised spray-painting of public roads in Tshwane – but it seems that most of them are not protesting but rather advertising their role in getting potholes fixed, using the tagline “DA GOT THIS DONE”.

A DA member spray-paints a road after the pothole was fixed. (Photo: Supplied)

Daily Maverick reported in October 2022 that potholes in South Africa grew from 15 million to 25 million in just five years. The figures were revealed at the seventh South African Roads Federation (SARF) Regional Conference for Africa in Cape Town.

They have since been repeatedly quoted in media statements by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral).

Bad roads

The condition of the country’s roads had deteriorated to such an extent that, two years ago, leading insurance companies Dialdirect Insurance and Discovery Insure partnered with the Joburg Road Agency (JRA) in the Pothole Patrol. From then until March 2023, the Pothole Patrol filled 150,000 potholes in Johannesburg, it was announced.

The private sector has also been leaving its mark on roads – declaring in paint on the tarmac that repairs were made by a specific insurer, making it clear that the improvements are not courtesy of the government or local municipalities.

spray-painting potholes

Construction workers stand near a spray-painted pothole. (Photo: Supplied)

Former transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced ambitious plans to eradicate potholes across the country when he launched Operation Vala Zonke. Sanral was appointed as the implementing agency and an app was launched for people to report potholes.

Although the intention of road marking is to put pressure on municipalities to fix eroded surfaces – and point a finger of blame at the ANC – strictly speaking, it is illegal.

Everywhere in the country, from Cape Town to Tshwane, it is unlawful for a private citizen to create graffiti or make other marks on a road surface in terms of both municipal by-laws and the National Road Traffic Act.

Not that there have been any publicised instances of pothole graffiti on the roads of Cape Town – so far.

Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Mobility Councillor Rob Quintas says: “One cannot compare the situation in Joburg with Cape Town, where we have a sound service delivery record.”

The Public Road By-laws for the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, in Chapter 2:6 (9), state: “No person may in any way deface, mark or paint any public road or part of a public road or any structure related to such road, without the prior written permission of the Council.”

CEO of Discovery Insure Anton Ossip says the Pothole Patrol is mandated by the City of Joburg to repair potholes measuring a maximum size of 1m by 1m.

“We started branding our pothole repairs in 2021, so that we could track and monitor our repairs as part of our quality control and warranty identification measures.

“We use water-soluble marking paint for our branding, and this is so the branding disappears over time, in accordance with the agreement governing our permission to work on JRA’s assets, i.e. the roads.”

He added that the branding was formally approved by the City of Joburg and the JRA but, as a result of the recent unauthorised markings by other parties, new methods were being looked at.

“The branding of potholes also serves as a reminder to motorists to report any potholes which road users encounter via the Pothole Patrol app.” The City of Joburg says claims the municipality is struggling to maintain roads are ill-founded.

Pothole fixers on Malibongwe Drive in Northriding. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“The City (JRA) is doing the best that it can to keep the City’s roads in great condition. It should be noted that the City (JRA) carries out the maintenance of roads while being confronted by external forces such as the vandalism and theft of roads infrastructure like traffic lights for copper cables, natural forces like heavy rainfalls and budgetary constraints,” it says.

The JRA adds that, since it started work on fixing the rainy season’s extensive  flood damage, a total of 5,425.50 potholes have been fixed.

Jacqui Uys, caucus chair of the DA in the Tshwane council, commented: “Tshwane has endured weeks of political sabotage from those opposed to the multi-party coalition’s mission to get the City back on track through a fiscal recovery plan and a renewed focus on service delivery for all residents.

“Today, council will vote on a lifeline budget to accomplish this and reassure residents that the DA and our coalition partners in government are focused on the issues that affect the quality of life in Tshwane.

“This is what we are focused on.

“In a country where poverty, service delivery, and crime deny opportunities to people desperate for a better life, I don’t think a spray paint stencil on a repaired road somewhere is an urgent priority.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    “ total of 5,425.50 potholes have been fixed”

    Did they really have to not complete that 5426th pothole?

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Thank you DA run Cape Town for making sure the roads in my neighborhood are pothole free. A brilliant resurfacing job, I enjoy it and give thanks every time I travel.

    Keep up the great work DA and Cape Town City Council.

  • Joe Soap says:

    Shame the ANC cannot even fix potholes. How incompetent is that!

  • Bert Kir says:

    Potholes are not unique to South Africa…

    “I read the news today, oh boy
    Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
    And though the holes were rather small
    They had to count them all
    Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall”
    (Lennon / McCartney)

    The DA will live to regret their petulant and childish painting of their name on repaired potholes.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Ate you even thinking about what you are saying? Don’t you like your roads being fixed? You criticise the fixers for making a true statement highlighting the disgrace and getting a little recognition for potentially saving you, and everyone in this country thousands of Rands in car repairs? Duh. You really do need to catch a wake up.

    • thejonster1983 says:

      Wow. Complains when service is provided. No doubt you complain when it isn’t too. Dimwit.

    • Graeme de Villiers says:

      Bert, you win the slaggat of the year award for that less-than-bright complaint/post. Suggest you take your chips off your shoulders and enjoy your gravel roads elsewhere.

    • Andries Herholdt says:

      Ha ha nice one Bert! 🤣🤣🤣 I enjoyed singing along!

    • Eyes Wide Shut says:

      Really dude?

    • Rory Short says:

      Bert crime, like potholes, is not unique to South Africa either so do you think we should not applaud those who try to do something to fix it?

  • fishingboy says:

    The elephant the room is money – where has all the rate money gone?

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    In many cases, filling potholes is a cosmetic exercise. This is due to faulty sub-road drainage being put in at the time of construction

  • Steven D says:

    Sorry, are we really making a mountain out of the mole-hill that is putting some paint on some roads – which will wear away fast as it isn’t designed to withstand friction from vehicle tyres – in plain sight of the obvious mountain that is rampant government corruption caused solely by the ANC?

    I say, tag away! Tag them left, tag them right – tag them all as part of the counter-ANC fight!

    • Neilo Zim says:

      Whilst I understand what you are getting at and completely agree with you, the fact is that it it technically illegal and as such, if someone is caught doing it, they should be punished by what ever law is applicable

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        As much as it hurts I agree with you.

        The law must always apply.

        If it is not, society is doomed.

        Our country is clear evidence of this simple truth.

  • David Katz says:

    Remember a vehicle called a street sweeper. They removed loose stones which cause potholes. Cars and busses driving over loose stones cause road to break. Weeds grow into crevices causing roads to fracture. There is no maintenance free roads. Either sweep them clean or have potholes.

  • Luis Bouca says:

    repaired 5425.5 potholes??? so they manage to repair 1/2 a pothole? incredible.

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    Frankly, if you fill a pothole and get some free advertising, fine by me. Also, spray painting around a pothole to point it out has made it a lot easier for me to avoid damaging my tyres. How about if the government doesn’t like it the government fixes the potholes?

  • Alan Watkins says:

    “The JRA adds that, since it started work on fixing the rainy season’s extensive flood damage, a total of 5,425.50 potholes have been fixed.”

    One possibility is that 5426th pothole was half fixed but that 5425 potholes were fixed.

    Another possibility is that 10851 potholes were all half fixed !!

  • Confucious Says says:

    Firstly, the anc and their ilk do not know how to benchmark positively. When Showerhead said that “we have better roads than Malawi”, he thought he was clever. But why benchmark off Malawi’s roads and not Switzerland’s roads? So by the and’s standards, we are doing ok with the current status.

    Secondly, is moaning about branding of the repairs anywhere on the hierarchy of needs at this stage? The context is that our roads are buggered and if private does not fix anything, then nothing will be fixed at all.

  • Anne Gaisford says:

    I remember reading back in the 2008 recession that a German municipality had invited businesses to fix potholes and erect a sign at the roadside to advertise their business.

    • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

      Maintenance must be marked as something to avoid in the ANC vocabulary. They have not been doing anything, anywhere for the last 20 years.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Maintenance must be marked as something to avoid in the ANC vocabulary. They have not been doing anything, anywhere for the last 20 years.

  • Alan Salmon says:

    Who cares if branding a pothole is legal or not !!! Surely the important thing is to fix them and embarass the useless ANC !

    • Bob Dubery says:

      I suspect the legislation is in place because you can’t let anybody just apply any old paint to a road surface. Paint can be slippery, accidents can happen. You need some, sure, otherwise how do you mark roads? But the application has to be controlled.

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        In an environment where roads are maintained I 100% agree with such a law but when weighing up paint vs giant holes I’m all for paint. And there is the invaluable name and shame factor that the ANC so richly deserve.

        • Bob Dubery says:

          Sure. In the short run (hopefully) we can turn a blind eye, and it seems that the insurers involved did OK everything with the municipality, in Jhb anyway.

  • Mark Krug says:

    Incorrect reference to bylaw prohibiting painting on roads. Should be Chapter 2:11.

  • Rod Murphy says:

    The are not fixing pot holes correctly. Ask any overseas trained Civil Engineer. They will simply pop up again. A pot hole must be shaped as an elongated diamond with the lonest points aligned with the direction of traffic for a permanent fix.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    The annoying thing is that there is a multi-party partnership governing in Tshwane, but, and as usual, the DA are claiming all the credit rather than share it with their partners. And they wonder why people get fed up with them and start thinking twice about the moonshot pact.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Come drive in Cape Town if you want to see DA and good roads in action.
      Given that the roads in Tshwane sound terrible I would guess that the multi party partnership you is in fact holding the DA back from what they could and would be delivering if voters did the sensible thing and voted them in outright as has been done in the Cape.

      • Bob Dubery says:

        I don’t dispite that Cape Town is much better run. But the DA can’t get majorities in many places and so enters into coalitions. And there’s a pattern. The DA starts claiming credit for everything, forgetting that without the partner parties they wouldn’t be able to do anything at all. Then the partners get fed up. Then the coalition runs into trouble. If this plays out at a national level then it’ll be really damaging.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          First just a note that from the article I’m not clear as to whether the DA are doing this as their own party initiative or taking credit for it from a governmental perspective (I may be wrong, but the the person doing the marking it does not appear to be an official municipal person).

          Re your observation, I certainly hear your perspective however I feel there are a number of ways of looking at this. For example, another perspective might be that the more people encouraged to vote for the DA the more likely to obviate the need for coalition thus freeing up the DA to actually do real good as they are able to in the Western Cape rather than having to kowtow to ridiculous and oftentimes embarrassing minority parties interested in nothing but their own self advancement and who effectively hold municipalities and residents to ransom and prevent the DA from achieving any real benefit.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Also, at a broader level compare housing price movement in the Cape vs the rest of the country.

      Then ask yourself why.

    • Eyes Wide Shut says:

      I don’t think this is about the DA claiming all the credit. It’s difficult to gather momentum of progress if Tshwane and other districts can’t be given the opportunity to fix the clear destruction the ANC has left behind. Constant motions of no confidence because their troughs have suddenly dried up, PA flip-flopping and puppet mayors doesn’t help any coalition function correctly because initiatives stop almost before they’ve started. If the ANC could fix the issues, then they would have done that a long time ago. But they have proven their incompetence and it’s time to allow the party that has a proven track record to tackle the challenges and fix them. If the coalitions could be left to fix the issues, then claiming credit etc. takes a far second place. But the ANC seems hell-bent on greed and destruction. And while the ANC exists in any form where it can break coalitions using flip-floppers, the potholes will stay. So, every attempt and method to make the ANC a serious minority should be supported by all voters now and at the polls.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    It is also unlawful to set up home in public spaces, drive your luxury vehicle without number plates to avoid a SARS lifestyle audit, steal electricity, not declaring R10m worth of dollars and hiding it in your sofa!
    Fixing potholes and shaming the Municipality just doesn’t seem that bad when considering the above!

  • Carol Bertram says:

    Interesting that budgetary constraints is seen as a ‘natural force’ like heavy rainfall!!

  • Alison Immelman Immelman says:

    JRA – what does this number mean? 5,425.50?? Is that five thousand, four hundred and twenty-five and a half potholes? Or perhaps eleventy hundred?

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