District and local roads in poorer urban and rural areas are badly maintained, says the writer     African News Agency (ANA)
District and local roads in poorer urban and rural areas are badly maintained, says the writer African News Agency (ANA)

Shocking state of many SA roads a deadly menace

By Yonela Mlambo Time of article published Feb 18, 2020

Share this article:

A shocking number of people lose their lives daily on our country’s roads.

Many accidents are the result of human error - speeding, drunk driving, etc. But not enough is said about our poor road infrastructure as a major contributing factor to road fatalities.

Our bad roads can be blamed on the government’s tender system for services - in this case, for road building and maintenance; the tender system is the midwife for major corruption involving politicians and big business.

A tender to build a road is approved and awarded to a certain construction company that never completes the job, for which the company is hardly held accountable for not fulfilling its contract.

A rational government will hold such a company accountable, but this does not happen. The logic dictates the conclusion: the road to be built was only meant as a cash cow for the few politically connected business elites and politicians accepting pay-offs for turning a blind eye.

It is true that our major highways and roads in some areas are well built and maintained. However, district and local roads in poorer urban and rural areas are badly maintained where they do exist; where not, they are promised but hardly ever materialise.

Politicians and incompetent “bureaucrats” do as they please in awarding tenders to companies for roadworks, receive pay-offs in return for such favours. Roads in our rural and semi-rural areas are particularly bad due to corruption such as this and mismanagement.

It is no joke that it can take more than a decade for government to finish a road less than 200km long, with ever extended contracts and changes of so-called consultant companies who are supposed to design and construct the road. There is hardly any transparency in the entire process, with communities desperately waiting for the road to be built simply ignored.

For instance, in the uMzimkhulu municipality which falls under the Harry Gwala district in KwaZulu-Natal, building of the P14 road in the village of Mahobe in ward 22 began a decade ago. To this day, the road is not completed and, in fact, is far from being finished.

The situation with the P14 road was reported to the National Assembly’s portfolio committee of Transport and the Ministry of Transport because local, district and provincial governments failed the community of Mahobe.

The national Department of Transport has responded with highly verbose explanations that show no course of action.

In the meantime, the community struggles to effectively commute to town, their vehicles damaged because of the poor road infrastructure with potholes and uneven surfaces.

The matter was also reported to the minister of finance; again there was a disappointing reply consisting of complaints against his colleagues and a plethora of similar cases around the country; the promise made to follow up on the matter has not been honoured to this day.

The people of Mahobe at uMzimkhulu experiences are not peculiar; marginalised and poor rural communities in South Africa are the continuous victims of concerted underdevelopment caused by corrupt politicians, state officials and business.

What is most excruciating is that institutions such as the Office of the Public Protector, meant to be the defender of ordinary citizens, is reluctant to assist those who make the effort to bring their issues to this body?

The question remains: Who or how many more are supposed to die before our government sees the salient need to provide urgent services to the people who need it most, in this case, better roads?

For the greater part, South Africa is a web of gravel roads that could be tarred once and for all instead of the constant maintenance they require every few years.

Even here the non-transparency with tenders, construction companies and decisions about these gravel roads must be noted. At the very best a community is just assembled and informed that maintenance of a particular road will be undertaken, and that is the end of it.

Developing and maintaining road infrastructure in rural and poor areas is more a fancy and a whim than a right, responsibility or plan with implementation processes, goals and oversight, with the state coffers and people’s taxes a kind of bottomless fountain for the corrupt.

* Yonela Mlambo is a UCT student

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media

Share this article: