A “normal day” on South Africa’s roads sees one motorist drive over dozens of potholes and encounter regular citizens trying to fix them.
This is the experience of a TopAuto reader, who said he recently drove past 92 potholes when traveling from Pretoria East to Centurion.
He drives this route on a daily basis, and drops his daughter at school on the way, resulting in a trip that is just over 37km in one direction.
Through reviewing his dashcam footage, the reader counted all the potholes on his route – which equates to around two-and-a-half potholes every kilometre.
While evading the damaged sections of road is already a challenge, this reader said he also has to look out for regular citizens who attempt to fix the potholes themselves.
These individuals fill the larger potholes with “bricks, stone, and soil” – usually after rain – and will then stand next to the road to ask for “donations” for their services.
The reader further said he recently saw people actively working on the roads for five days, but questioned whether they were official Sanral or municipal employees.
“I saw them [repair the road] over a period of five days driving to work and did not see any municipal markings or construction signs,” he said.
The unmarked crew who carried out the work did not wear any reflective or official clothing.
He said these citizens do not clean or prepare the potholes before attempting to remedy them, and have been seen dumping tar onto the road off the back of bakkies.
More often than not, these finished patches of tar turn out uneven and “at least driveable, although very bumpy.”
“I also think that most of the potholes on the M28 and Olympus Drive were fixed by individuals as the workmanship is shocking,” he said.
The reader said the issue has gotten so serious that certain sections of roads, especially in the outlying areas such as Delmas Road, have become nearly unusable.
This dual carriageway has essentially been reduced to a single, severely damaged lane where motorists from both directions have to dodge potholes as well as each other.
The lumpy areas of “repaired” tar have morphed into speed bumps, he said, and it’s difficult to evade both these sections and the existing potholes.
One section is so bad that the reader has to drive over a traffic circle to avoid driving through potholes, he said.
Many of the potholes on his daily route were “fixed” in this unprofessional manner, but he said it did not make his drive much better.
Blesbok, Eland, and Foxtrot Streets are still “an absolute mess”, he added.
The biggest disaster
The daily experience of this reader is the unfortunate reality for many South Africans, as the country’s road network is in a dire state.
This sentiment was echoed by transport minister Fikile Mbalula in a parliamentary meeting on 15 February, in which he said the roads will not be maintained for the next 10 years due to the bulk of Sanral’s income being used to service debt incurred by the e-toll project, reported BusinessTech.
Furthermore, at a road construction meeting on 24 February, Mbalula said “the provincial road network condition has been on a steady decline since the early 1990s due to several reasons that include a curtailed funding allocation and the shrinking project output by the road sector.”
Approximately 80% of the 750,811km of roads in the country have reached the end of their 20-year design life, he said.
“It is going to be the biggest disaster you have ever seen, with roads not being fixed and maintained, because we do not have the money to do it,” said Mbalula.
While many fingers have been pointed, no clear solutions were provided to get the country’s roads back into a respectable condition.
Mbalula said Sanral is responsible for fixing the primary road networks, and that provinces and local municipalities must take care of the secondary and tertiary road networks in their area.
He also admitted that the national government has a responsibility to ensure that the local municipalities do their job in this regard.
Going forward, there seem to be no concrete plans to fix South Africa’s ailing road network.
This was called out by the AA this week, which stated that South Africa’s crumbling roads are to blame for the country’s high road accident death toll.