This app was supposed to help fix potholes in South Africa – but officials are still learning how to use it

 ·8 Dec 2023

The National Department of Transport (DoT) launched Operation Vala Zonke – a National Public Pothole Reporting App – last year to help identify and locate potholes across the country that need to be fixed. However, officials still don’t know how to use the system, and training is still underway.

Additionally, while the DoT has spent in excess of R3.65 billion over the last six months repairing the country’s crumbling roads, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga showed that the department has grossly underspent its budget for road repairs.

These issues were highlighted by the Minister of Transport in written replies to recent parliamentary Q&As.

The Minister and Members of the Executive Council (MINMEC) adopted the intervention plan to fight against potholes and general road refurbishment and improvement that triggered the launch of Operation Vala Zonke in August 2022.

Chikunga noted that the SANRAL Transport Integrated Information System (ITIS) was availed to all Road Authorities for the provision of Centralised Repository and Asset Management Services with a Mobile Pothole Reporting App that enables the public to report potholes wherever they are encountered.

She added that the plan envisaged to have a central platform, using an automated system to (a) allocate a complaint, (b) track progress, (c) identify and resolve delays, (d) intervene (provide support) to address service delivery and (e) provide feedback to the public using the app.

According to the minister, since the launch of the app, there have been 138,928 downloads, with roughly 44,949 potholes reported as per the National System as of 7 November 2023.

Chikunga further noted that Gauteng tops the table with a total of 20,220 potholes reported, followed by Free State with 7,067, whereas Northern Cape reported 464 at the bottom of the table.

However, she added that little has been done using the App because municipal and department officials aren’t trained to use the new system. This is over a year after the app was launched.

The biggest challenge is that most pothole complaints cannot be correctly and automatically allocated using the system.

It is on this basis that SANRAL is currently training officials from Provinces and Municipalities on the usage of the App under the theme “Train the Trainer,” said Chikunga.


Despite the issues of the App, the DoT has indeed spent billions on fixing roads, but it has grossly underspent its budget, meaning little is being done to fix and maintain road infrastructure, including fixing potholes.

In a separate parliamentary Q&A, Chikunga noted that her department has spent in excess of R3.65 billion over the last six months ending September, repairing the country’s crumbling roads.

She added the number of potholes on roads that fell under her administration repaired in each province in the past six months amounted to 1,291,442m², the bulk of the patching happening in KwaZulu-Natal.

Despite billions being spent, however, the R3.65 billion is only roughly 29% of the total Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant of R12,665,440,753.

Per province, the six-month expenditure on road repairs and the area of roads that were restored were:

ProvincePotholes patchedBudget allocationSix-month expenditure% of budget spent
Eastern Cape112 286m²R2 057 539 888R472 776 76123.0%
Free State20 000m²R1 337 642 000R347 299 00026.0%
Gauteng213 321m²R680 058 000R61 111 0249.0%
KwaZulu-Natal500 000m²R3 309 978 000R673 500 45220.3%
Limpopo139 925m²R1 280 899 865R551 826 65343.1%
Mpumalanga141 186m²R905 915 000R272 084 08230.0%
Northern Cape23 676m²R1 064 972 000R491 859 49946.2%
North West94 996m²R1 068 127 000R265 741 55124.9%
Western Cape 46 052m²R960 309 000R514 052 00053.5%
Total1 291 442m²R12 665 440 753R3 650 251 02229.0%

It must be noted that these figures not only account for potholes, but also for general road maintenance.

“This budget covers the entire maintenance of provincial Strategic and Secondary road networks inclusive of blacktop patching and pothole repairs,” said Chikunga.

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