The road network which is considered one of the South Africa’s greatest assets has 25 million potholes

Two road cones with red and white tape are placed on either side of a large pothole to warn motorists of the danger.

File Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Oct 19, 2022


Durban - The SA National Road Agency (Sanral) said there are 25 million potholes in the country’s road network, compared to 15 million five years ago.

This was revealed at the 7th South African Roads Federation (SARF) Regional Conference for Africa, which started in Cape Town on Tuesday.

In a statement on Wednesday, Sanral said the main reason for the massive increase in the number of potholes is inadequate maintenance, which results in a vicious cycle that creates even deeper holes in the pockets of the administering authorities.

Sanral said it currently costs between R700 and R1 500 per square metre to fix one pothole, depending on its size.

“The lack of maintenance increases the repair costs by 18 times if a full rehabilitation of a road is deemed necessary,” it said.

Leading road experts and decision-makers from across the world are attending the conference.

Former SARF president Mutshutshu Nxumalo said while our road network was one of the country’s greatest assets, a mere 5% of the national fiscus was allocated to maintain it.

“Sanral is doing good work, but they can’t do it on their own. There is an imbalance between the understanding of what needs to be achieved and the political will. We have legislation, but the wrong leadership,” he said.

The fallout from inadequate road maintenance was “far-reaching and disastrous”, he said, including putting public safety at risk.

He said this causes the destruction of transport routes, disrupting the movement of goods, negatively impacting tourism and resulting in major claims from the Road Accident Fund.

“Our roads go through their lifespan without maintenance, which eventually leads to bigger problems. Our potholes, specifically, are caused by a delay in the response to fixing them timeously,” said Nxumalo.

Professor Philip Paige-Green, of the Tshwane University’s Engineering Department, said there was much more to the issue than just filling potholes.

Paige-Green said a 2010 study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research details the approach that should be taken to deal with potholes.

However, he said little of what was proposed has been implemented on our provincial, urban and district roads.

“It’s simple. If they aren’t fixed properly, they won’t last,” he said.

Paige-Green used an example of a road that had recurring potholes over decades of repairs.

“What no one seemed to notice is that there was lush green grass right next to the road, which meant there was a water source. This is not rocket science. It should be clear to understand that any filling of potholes here wouldn’t work without taking care of the water source,” he said.

In August, the national Department of Transport launched Operation Vala Zonke, a national campaign aimed at eradicating potholes across the country, with Sanral as the implementing agency.

Sanral said the initiative had reported significant success in most provinces in just 10 weeks.

“As figures come in, Johannesburg has already fixed and filled an impressive 112 699 potholes, North West Province 28 578, Limpopo Province 25 431 and the Free State has 16 540 fewer potholes, thanks to Operation Vala Zonke.”