Pothole app's glitches ironed out as Operation Vala Zonke gears up

Motorists promised speedy feedback on pothole reports all across SA

28 August 2022 - 15:45
By Gill Gifford
The department of transport has promised a speedy response and a proper report back to motorists reporting potholes across the country.
Image: Free State Agriculture The department of transport has promised a speedy response and a proper report back to motorists reporting potholes across the country.

Operation Vala Zonke, the transport department’s pothole repair campaign, is fast gaining momentum as people have responded positively on the new pothole app.

So says the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral), which is now responsible for responding to all pothole reports — as indicated by transport minister Fikile Mbalula at the launch of Operation Vala Zonke earlier this month.

This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared war on potholes earlier this year and civil society lobby group Outa described the deterioration of roads across the country as illustrative of a lack of leadership, transparency and accountability at provincial and local government level, tantamount to “road-shedding”.

Taking charge of the issue this month, Mbalula stated that the “campaign will change the face of our municipal and provincial roads from pothole-riddled to an acceptable state of repair.

This launch will be replicated across the country with premiers and MECs leading provincial launches.”

The campaign, launched on August 8 and set to run for six months, has been running for three weeks.

In its first report-back, Sanral stated that the main causes of potholes are wet weather, high traffic volumes, extreme temperatures and a lack of regular maintenance.

“While poor maintenance is often cited as the main cause of potholes, the damage caused to roads by heavy vehicles, especially overloaded vehicles, is a major contributing factor. 

"Overloaded vehicles cause the greatest amount of damage to roads, even in a single transgression. A single overloaded axle and associated wheel pressures that are above the permissible limits, will have a detrimental impact on the asset value of the road, causing longer term damage of which potholes are one of the symptoms,” said Randall Cable, Sanral western region manager.

He said the challenge could not be fixed simply by “slapping on a hot-asphalt band aid and steering away from the problem”, and that the campaign needed public support to succeed. 

“Reporting potholes via the Sanral app will ensure that Operation Vala Zonke delivers on its promise to fix potholes on all SA roads,” Mbalula promised at the campaign launch.

The app was launched on iOS and Android, with a bumpy start that saw availability on Android delayed for the first few days. There were technical glitches in the registration and sign-in but they have been ironed out and the app is now running on both platforms, according to Sanral App project manager Andrew MacKellar.

“We are still working on the feedback function. The important thing is that potholes are being reported to the maintenance teams concerned, and we are streamlining that process further,” he said.

Mbalula said the cost of repairing a pothole is between R700 and R1,500/per square metre.

Otsile Mpela, MD of Bafenyi Asphalt, said poor workmanship was one of the greatest obstacles to achieving quality pothole fixing and edge-break repairs.

The correct procedure needed to be followed, quality products used and proper compacting done.

MacKellar said the Sanral pothole app is free, and 17.2 MB in size. Its user rating has improved from 2.3 out of 5 earlier this month to 2.9.

“It’s easy to download and open and you can start reporting potholes immediately after registering. The app opens up a little camera which you use to take a picture of the pothole, while the system automatically records the GPS location,” he said.

Reported information is assigned to the relevant authority, depending on the location of the road, for the responsible maintenance depot to go out and fix it.

“The person reporting the pothole gets a notification that the report has been received, and another when the pothole has been fixed. Even if a lot of people report the same pothole, they will all receive these notifications,” MacKellar said.


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