Pietermaritzburg - An eight-year battle to repair the badly degraded, potholed road leading to the Cathedral Peak Hotel in the Drakensberg ended on Thursday when a judge ruled that repairs to the road start within six weeks.
Judge Daya Pillay, of the Pietermaritzburg High Court, ordered the KZN Nature Conservation Board (EKZN) to commence emergency repairs to the D394 main road on or before May 30 this year.
In terms of an order granted by Judge Pillay yesterday, emergency repairs to the tune of R2 million must start by the end of May, while the final repairs and resurfacing of the road must commence on or before April 2017, to be completed within a year (April 2018).
The order further states that as soon as any event arises that may potentially delay the final repairs or completion of the road by April 30, 2018, the board must apply to court for leave to extend the deadline.
The battle to fix the road began in May 2008, when the William van der Riet Family Trust, which owns the Cathedral Peak Hotel, instituted action against EKZN for an order directing them to repair the D394 Main Road. An order was granted on April, 20, 2010, directing EKZN to maintain the road leading to the hotel.
But EKZN failed to meet their obligations and in June 2010 the Trust launched an application to find EKZN in contempt of court. This led to an agreement being entered into between the parties in March 2011, whereby EKZN would be given three years within which to repair, maintain and upgrade the road.
EKZN yet again failed to meet their obligations in terms of the agreement, and the matter came before the court yet again.
Despite EKZN’s insistence that progress had been made and that repairs were being done, Judge Pillay found that there could be no explanation as to why it had taken EKZN more than eight years to repair the 6.9-kilometre stretch of road, and the order to begin emergency and final repairs was granted on Thursday.
EKZN took over the road from the Department of Transport in 1994.
In court papers, hotel owner William van der Riet described the shocking state of the road. He said signage was either missing entirely or damaged and the roads were in total disrepair.
The road surfaces were rough and uneven, and the tarmac is crumbling and “riddled with potholes”, some of them large. The roads are unsafe for motor vehicles and motorcycles to travel on.
Photographs taken in 2008 showed large cracks in the road surface as well as stretches where the tar had given way on the side of the road, rendering it hazardous to traffic.
Some potholes were said to be 1.5 metres long, a metre wide and 20cm deep. On their own these could cause vehicles to overturn with “catastrophic consequences”, Van der Riet said.
He said the hotel sells almost 60 000 rooms a year, resulting in some 15 000 vehicles travelling the roads to the hotel in a year. This excludes all day visitors, staff motor vehicles and drivers who live in the area.
He had also received complaints from guests at the heritage site and the hotel that their vehicles were damaged as a result of the “deplorable” state of the road.
Many also complained they had lost their way to the hotel as the signage was missing, illegible or confusing.