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Government launches “war room” to end South Africa’s pothole epidemic

The Department of Transport (DoT) today opened a new “war room” at the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) headquarters in Centurion, Gauteng, as part of Operation Vala Zonke which aims to eradicate potholes on the country’s roads.

The DoT launched the national Vala Zonke campaign on 8 August 2022, with a call for joint efforts by all nine provinces and 278 municipalities to take action against the infrastructure crisis.

The war room will now serve as a central point for the collection of information on potholes across all provinces, which transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga admitted was “not up to scratch.”

Three employees will be allocated to a province, comprising a supervisor and two operators, who will communicate with road authorities in the various regions regarding the location and magnitude of reported potholes, as well as their repair status.

Road users are the main channel through which the various road agencies find potholes, as they are able to report the hazards to the authorities via the free Vala Zonke app for iOS and Android as well as receive updates on rehabilitation work.

The app allows users to take a picture of the pothole, while the system automatically records the GPS location, and send the information to the relevant authority.

According to Sanral, over 51,200 citizens have downloaded the app so far.

Potholes patched in 14 days

Sanral’s intention with the war room is to have all potholes repaired within 14 days after they are reported by a motorist.

If this doesn’t happen, the initiative will allow the roads agency to easily determine why the pothole was not patched.

“It could be the issue of skills [or] it could be the issue of resources, and therefore we’re going to have the decision-makers meeting every week to look at strategic issues and decisions that need to be taken to unblock whatever obstacles that are there,” Chikunga told Newzroom Afrika.

“We are trying to heighten the issue of ensuring that our roads are traffickable and they are without potholes.”

The launch of the Vala Zonke war room follows another campaign recently introduced by the DoT, in which it plans to trial the use of “nanotechnology” to fix potholes in the North West province.

The “groundbreaking” technology reinforces road surfaces and significantly reduces water seepage due to the hydrophobic qualities of the nanotechnology materials. If proven successful, the initiative could be extended to all other provinces in the country.

Towards the end of 2022, South Africa was estimated to have 25 million potholes spread out across its vast road network – a number which has gone up 67% in five years – with an estimated repair cost that stretches anywhere from R37.5 billion to R675 billion.

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