020613: POTHOLES

Johannesburg - The city’s potholed and crumbling roads are a direct consequence of e-tolling.

This according to the Gauteng chairman of the African Christian Democratic Party, Meshack van Wyk, who said alternative routes were being damaged by increased traffic volumes.

“Many drivers are choosing alternative routes in order to avoid tolled highways and provision needs to be made in provincial and local budgets for extra maintenance to be done on them, especially if they are regularly used by heavy trucks,” he said.

The extensive rain has not helped, with Gauteng’s roads hit by flooding over the past week.

However, Justice Project South Africa chairman Howard Dembovsky said on Monday there was “no doubt” that the increased traffic had caused more damage than the weather.

“Yes, you can blame a lot of it on the rain, but roads are designed for different weather conditions,” he said.

“These roads were designed for motorcars and motorcycles; now they’re getting trucks and heavy goods vehicles.”

“They’re bound to fall to pieces.”

The Johannesburg metro police confirmed that alternate routes had seen an increase in traffic volumes since e-tolling began in December.

Metro police spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane said people were trying to “find an easier way” to get to work without using the toll routes, but would not comment on the state of the roads.

“I’m not an engineer,” she said.

However, DA transport spokesman Ian Ollis said he didn’t think the increased traffic on alternative routes was the major cause of potholes.

“The potholes can’t all have arrived in the last three months,” he said. “It’s an underinvestment in roads over the past 10 years.”

“The e-tolls have just made it worse.”

Meanwhile, Dembovsky said he was unaware of any prosecutions for failing to pay e-toll bills and said it would probably take some time as letters of demand had to be sent via registered mail first.

“I’m eagerly awaiting mine,” he said, “then I’m eagerly going to ignore it and then they must eagerly prosecute me.”

He has also questioned the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s figures on registered users.

Dembovsky alleged that transport minister Dipuo Peters told parliament last week that registration for e-tags was at 912 048 by the end of January.

Dembovsky and Ollis have both questioned this figure.

Sanral has claimed that 1.2 million registrations had been made to date.

Dembovsky said: “A figure of more than 10 000 registrations per day, every single day in the month of February, is simply too difficult to swallow, no matter how Sanral chooses to spin it.”

Ollis agreed: “The 1.2 million figure is highly unlikely.”

Neither the department of transport or Sanral could not be reached for comment by the time of publication, while the Johannesburg Roads Agency said it would comment later on Monday.

Last week, the DA went to the Western Cape High Court in a bid to have the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill - which was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma and paved the way for e-tolling to become a reality - declared unconstitutional. The party argued that it was incorrectly tagged as a Section 75 bill and not a Section 76 bill, with the former debated only before Parliament, while the latter is debated in Parliament and before the National Council of Provinces.

Judgment in the matter has been reserved.

The Star