It cannot be 149 potholes for every kilometre: Sanral

19 February 2023 - 11:38 By TimesLive
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Sanral says we must not "exaggerate the challenges we are facing."
Sanral says we must not "exaggerate the challenges we are facing."
Image: Freddy Mavunda

The South African National Roads Agency has challenged an estimate that South Africa has 25-million potholes.

In a statement on Sunday, Sanral said the estimate was supplied in a presentation by one of the speakers at the South African Roads Federation (SARF) conference held in Cape Town in October.

“Sanral has reservations about this figure. Given that South Africa has a paved network of 168,000km, 25-million would equate to 149 potholes for every kilometre, which is improbable and unlikely,” the entity said.

The roads agency’s spokesperson Vusi Mona said: “We do not dispute that South Africa has a pothole crisis and we remain committed to working with provinces and municipalities to address it. However, we must be realistic about the nature and extent of the problem.

“We recognise the work done by so many municipalities and provincial departments in fixing potholes on their respective roads.

“We are, however, unable to provide reliable statistics as to the exact number of potholes which have been repaired to date and will be requiring more administrative co-operation from the various authorities to actively report their progress so that we can have a more accurate grasp of the progress made across the country.”

Mona said feedback and opinions are important to roads authorities because they reflect the experience of the people who use the roads. “We take these seriously. But even so, we must be careful when using statistical data so that we don’t exaggerate the challenges we are facing.” 

Much work to be done at various levels of government

Sanral said collaboration is key to fixing potholes on national, provincial and municipal roads, in line with the national department of transport's Operation Vala Zonke campaign, launched on August 8. 

All spheres of government are meant to be involved in effecting repairs, with co-ordination and technical expertise provided by Sanral. 

The roads agency said some 51,271 people have downloaded the free pothole app — available on IOS and Android phones — and have so far reported some 26,699 potholes.

“A total of 618 potholes have been reported on Sanral [national] roads to date. All these were fixed and those that haven’t are still within the 48-hour widow that we have set ourselves at Sanral,” said Louw Kannemeyer, Sanral’s engineering executive.

Mona said the first six months of the Vala Zonke campaign had shown some success in providing the public with a single pothole reporting app that can be used on all roads in South Africa, providing a centralised consolidated view of all reported potholes enabling focused engagements between the department of transport and relevant authority and fixing potholes. However, a massive inter-governmental effort would be required to overcome the scourge on a much wider scale.

“As the co-ordinating agency for the Vala Zonke campaign, Sanral has done an assessment of the limited progress made in fixing potholes across the country. It is important to understand the legal mandates of the various spheres of government, to understand who is responsible for which roads, and to be clear about how the campaign to fix potholes is co-ordinated.”

Sanral manages national roads and has a network of 23,512km of paved roads.

Provinces are responsible for just over 270,000km (46,500km paved) while the municipal network is estimated at just over 320,000km (nearly 88,000km paved) of the proclaimed network.

The rest are unproclaimed gravel roads (mainly serving rural communities) and are not owned or maintained by any road authority.

Mona said: “While we are aware of work that has and is being done by provincial and municipal roads authorities in fixing potholes on the roads, they are responsible for, Sanral is not in a position to authoritatively give account on these.”

The challenges are not insurmountable, he said.

“We will not grow tired until we have delivered on the mission, and we want to assure South Africans that government remains committed to addressing the problem. The solution is here, but it can only be fully effective when we all play our part.”


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