By Vusi Mona, General Manager: Communications and Marketing at SANRAL
The Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, launched the national campaign to eradicate potholes at the beginning of August. The South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL), as an agency of the Department of Transport, was appointed to be the implementing agency for this initiative.
SANRAL remains the custodian of the national road network but is working with provincial and local government, considering the magnitude of the pothole problem.
In the main, our national road network of more than 22 200km remains pothole free, partly because of SANRAL’s proactive approach to fixing potholes. SANRAL has a policy of fixing any sign of a reported pothole within 48 hours.
SANRAL has the skills and best practice to assist provincial and local governments maintain their road networks. After all, ours is a unitary state that should encourage best practice and the sharing of skills across all three spheres of government. Provincial and local and roads authorities would still maintain their jurisdictions and pothole repair programmes already committed to in the current financial year.
Several provincial launches
Since the national launch of the Operation Vala Zonke (Nguni) or Operation Kwala Kaofela (Sotho) campaign, we have also had several provincial launches in places such as the Northern Cape, the Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng.
Potholes have remained a problem and have posed a danger to road users throughout the country. Potholes are particularly dangerous at night or when there is rainy weather.
SANRAL has always and will continue to appeal to our people to drive safely on our roads, irrespective of whether there are potholes or not, and we will continue to design and build our roads in a way that is safest for commuters and road users.
The campaign to fix potholes is part of national government’s broader commitment to improve infrastructure development in our country, which is a critical element of South Africa’s economic recovery plan, after the Covid-19 pandemic and the global economic recession.
Infrastructure development plan will help to revitalise SA’s economy
Government’s infrastructure development plan will help to revitalise South Africa’s economy and will create many job opportunities. This will, in turn, protect many livelihoods.
The infrastructure development plan was first announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation address last year. This plan will see government building critical network infrastructure such as ports, roads, bridges and rail, which are crucial to make South Africa a competitive economy.
For millions of South Africans in rural areas, roads and bridges provide access to markets, employment opportunities and social services. Good roads can impact positively on local economic development. Bad roads, such as ones with potholes, impact negatively on local communities and local economic development.
Fixing the potholes on the country’s roads is a big task, which will take several years, but, at SANRAL, we are determined to tackle the task of coordinating this national effort with the confidence and ability that we have displayed when constructing and maintaining our national roads.
The government is serious about fixing the country’s roads and is implementing the national pothole repair campaign with vigour. It shows that government has a plan in place to maintain South Africa’s infrastructure assets.
This campaign will aid job creation and bring about improved infrastructure and safer roads. Local communities will benefit from the pothole repair project.
It is important to remember that the road network belongs to all South Africans and that, together we can eradicate potholes. Preventative maintenance is key in successfully dealing with the pothole problem.
Overweight loaded vehicles play a significant role in damaging the road network. The freight industry has a role to play in reducing damage to the road network.
Complaints about potholes dominate social media and are a major contributor to negative sentiment towards the government and the country.
Pothole reporting App
We are proud to announce that, as part of this campaign, we have launched a pothole reporting App, which the public can use to report any potholes they might encounter.
The App allows the public to raise any issues (such as uploading pictures, details of the issue and get real-time location of the road where the issue is raised) on an interactive map that will show the owners of the different roads, as well as get status updates on issues raised using a pothole ticketing system.
The reports received through SANRAL’s App will also be used to create an audit report of potholes on national roads, so that we can remain abreast of where problems are and how quickly they are being fixed.
Through this technology, SANRAL will respond to every customer complaint in a way that makes the user feel heard.
Progress to be reviewed in six months
The national battle to eradicate potholes will not be an easy or short-term battle. We will review our progress after six months, but we already know that this project could last many years and we will not be able to deal with everyone’s pothole problems immediately. But we will do our best to react as soon as possible.
The public will play a key role in the success of this campaign. We need everybody to embrace this process and to help get rid of potholes.
At the same time, we need the public to drive safely, obey the rules of the road and make sure that their vehicles are roadworthy. Road user behaviour is an important contributor to road safety.
At SANRAL, we will manage this project with the diligence that we manage everything else, but we cannot do it successfully without the support of the provinces and municipalities and, most importantly, the public.