Private companies are increasingly stepping in to help the government address South Africa’s ageing road infrastructure.
The most significant announcement came at the end of April when major insurance companies Discovery and Dialdirect announced a partnership with the City of Johannesburg to fix potholes across the city.
In a statement on Wednesday (12 May), the city’s mayor Geoff Makhubo said that the project aims to patch up an average of 4,000 potholes per month, using two specialised trucks.
He added that the programme is seen as “purely supplementary” to the work currently being performed by the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA).
“This partnership is a game-changer in resolving the backlog created by the national lockdown and the scourge of potholes on Joburg roads,” Makhubo said.
Both insurers said that the initiative will help reduce road accidents related to potholes and decrease exorbitant insurance claims for damage to vehicles caused by potholes.
It’s hoped the partnership will elevate Joburg’s status within the international community, as having high-quality road infrastructure and safety standards.
In a separate statement this week, telecommunications company Vox said that it was working with the city of Makhanda through its subsidiary Grahamstown Wi-Fi to help repair potholes.
Grahamstown Wi-Fi co-founder, Thinus Jurgens, said the company has identified just short of 300 potholes in the city.
“As a local resident, the deterioration of the roads hits home on a personal level. We have partnered with SAE General Contractors led by Colin Hare, who will close about eight potholes a day using state-of-the-art cold pre-mixed tar which is built to last.”
He said that the process will involve working on small sections of road at a time to result in as little disruption to traffic as possible.
Private citizens and neighbourhood groups are also fixing road infrastructure in areas where they feel that the municipality has failed them. Moneyweb recently reported of such a case in Roodepoort which started because of the perceived ineptitude of the local municipality.
As the Panorama Residents Association (PRA) did not receive the assistance of the Johannesburg Roads Agency, it spent R10,000 on its own pre-mixed tar to fix the roads.
Groundup has also reported on two unemployed South African men who have taken it upon themselves to fix potholes in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape, and ask passing motorists for donations.
“The municipality was not showing any indication of fixing the roads. We then decided to help the people of Lusikisiki and ourselves,” says Siphiwe Mlonji.
Cost of fixing roads
In April, transport minister Fikile Mbalula told parliament that the government needed between R700 and R1,500 per square meter to fund pothole repairs across the country.
He said that the Provincial Road Maintenance Grant sets aside R12bn for pothole repairs to the country’s 754,600km road network.
However, Mbalula said that completely removing potholes in the country would be an almost impossible task.
“It is difficult to eradicate potholes on the road network as the emergence of new potholes depends entirely on the extent and nature of rainfall in that month or year.
“It is important to note that the road maintenance funding allocated from the national fiscus is not sufficient to maintain the road network in the three spheres of government as there are competing needs to all sectors.”
Mbalula said that most of the country’s provincial road network has reached its design life of 25 years and were never designed for the current increased traffic volumes and traffic configuration.