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R3.8bn a year – how much the Eastern Cape needs to fix potholes and maintain roads

R3.8bn a year – how much the Eastern Cape needs to fix potholes and maintain roads
MEC for Roads and Transport in the Eastern Cape Xolile Nqatha has told the legislature that it will cost R3.8bn to fix the province’s roads. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

MEC for Transport and Community Safety in the Eastern Cape Xolile Nqatha has told the provincial legislature that R3.8-billion a year is needed for road maintenance. Potholes have now become so bad that it doesn’t help to ‘patch’ them any more.

The Eastern Cape needs R3.8-billion a year to fill the province’s potholes and maintain provincial roads, MEC for Transport and Community Safety Xolile Nqatha has told the legislature.

Nqatha said that while they were “continuously attending” to road maintenance, the budget of R800-million was hampering efforts to address backlogs.

“The department is currently receiving about R800-million from the Provincial Roads Management Grant for maintenance of its network, against the required budget of R3.8-billion per annum.

“The situation is exacerbated by gross underfunding on equitable shares, meaning that it heavily relies on the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant,” Nqatha said.

“Damage on the provincial network is a result of inadequate maintenance over the years, which was mainly due to underfunding. [The] majority of the surfaced network no longer requires pothole patching due to excessive damage on it. [The] department has started a process of meaningfully maintaining (reseals and rehabilitation) its paved network,” he said.

Nqatha said they could, on average, undertake two projects a year to resurface and reseal roads.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s Denise van Huyssteen said due to the rail system being affected by cable theft, goods were increasingly having to be transported by road.

This, in turn, had negative consequences including increased logistics costs for businesses. It also affected the sustainability of businesses and their ability to continue to operate in South Africa and provide jobs.

Read more on Daily Maverick: Across the Great Divide: Road quality and governance in the Eastern and Western Cape

“Trucks (travelling from the mines in the north) carrying manganese have caused severe pollution and infrastructure damage to Markman Industrial Area and the N2 and associated roads along the beachfront,” she said.

“This in turn has resulted in some businesses in Markman closing down and others struggling to continue to operate, thus putting thousands of jobs at risk.

“The Eastern Cape’s roads are deteriorating faster than the Department of Roads and Transport can fix them, placing countless lives and livelihoods at risk.

“The problem is further exacerbated by the ever-increasing shift of heavy freight to our road networks, because of the abysmal failure of rail systems across the province,” Van Huyssteen said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Transnet leadership exodus continues, with Siza Mzimela the latest to leave

The Democratic Alliance’s Marshall von Buchenroder said roads were breaking up faster than the provincial government could fix them.

“This Transport Month, the DA is calling on the department to find ways to revitalise the provincial railway networks. This will reduce the volume of heavy freight on the roads and provide public transport solutions to commuters who are buckling under the pressures of ever-rising fuel costs. 

“When roads deteriorate, it directly impacts the surrounding economy as businesses cannot get their goods and services to markets. Fewer business opportunities mean fewer jobs. 

“We need to ensure that the heavy freight vehicles are not overloaded, which is a major contributor to road degradation. We need to have weighbridges that work and proper 24/7 law enforcement on our roads to enforce traffic regulations,” Von Buchenroder said.

The former head of the provincial transport department, Mzi Mafani, is one of the senior officials moved to the premier’s office in a shake-up announced by Premier Oscar Mabuyane last week. 

Mabuyane said Mafani was one of several senior government officials – including the highly regarded head of the health department, Dr Rolene Wagner – who would be part of a “crack team” to ensure that turnaround strategies for the province were implemented.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eastern Cape premier claims redeployments are to build a ‘crack team’, but DA says it’s a ‘smokescreen’

Mabuyane told the provincial investment conference in East London on 29 September: “Infrastructure remains at the heart of our developmental plans. From the development zones of Coega, East London, and Wild Coast SEZ to the logistics corridors – which include the upgrade of our national roads, ports and connecting bridges – we are investing in systems that facilitate the smooth transportation of goods, services and people.

“Through Sanral, government is rolling out 45 high-impact road infrastructure projects across all municipal districts and metropolitan areas linking commercial centres, tourism sites and communities. No district is left behind in the road construction boom that you see in our province.

“There is progress in the implementation of the R9.1-billion Transnet infrastructure development projects in the Ports of Ngqura, East London and Gqeberha. The ports and rail infrastructure are being positioned to support critical provincial sectors such as automotive, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.”

But Van Huyssteen cautioned that vandalism and theft were fast eroding businesses’ ability to flourish in Nelson Mandela Bay, the province’s largest metro and the heart of the Eastern Cape automotive industry. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Frustrated Free State farmers dig in together to fix giant potholes

In a letter addressed to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Eastern Cape, advocate Barry Madolo, Van Huyssteen provided information on the impact of crimes such as vandalism of transport infrastructure.

“South Africa has a rail network of over 30,000km, which is being rapidly stripped by criminals to make money from scrap metal. More than two-thirds of the overhead cables that cover more than 3,000km of track have been stolen. It is estimated that it will cost the state about R500,000 per kilometre to restore.

“According to data cited by the South African Association of Freight Forwarders, supply chain logistics delays have cost the economy between R100-million and R1-billion each day, but the overall cost is substantially greater than that,” the letter said. DM

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