The lack of urgent repairs to flood damaged and potholed bridges and roads in the Eastern Cape is a crisis situation.
I have today written to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Roads in the Legislature, Mrs. Nomalinde Komose to convene an urgent meeting next week to discuss this problem.
The S’hamba Sonke pothole repair project, for which R1 billion has been allocated to the province this financial year, is being met with ignorance from municipal- and roads officials.
There seems to be lack of know-how from officials how to access this funding from national government.
If this province sleeps we will lose this potential funding to other provinces.
This national ring-fenced funding is available for municipalities to fix potholes and, most importantly, create hundreds of jobs in the process.
Ongoing lack of road maintenance is causing economic hardship to the provincial population. The lack of quick maintenance of flood damaged bridges is hampering farmers from transporting their produce to markets causing economic hardship.
For example, a Pineapple farmer from the Fish River faced huge economic losses after the Kap bridge was washed away recently and he was left stranded with 400 tonnes of fruit. When it became clear that repairs to the bridge were not a priority, he spent R10 000 on making a detour-road himself.
The community living in the Cowie Valley near Bedford in the Nxuba Municipality is another example: I have been informed that the Cavers Dairy cannot make milk deliveries due to a collapsed bridge and guests that have booked at the Cavers Guest House have had to cancel because they cannot reach the guest house in a normal vehicle. The annual Garden Festival that generates a lot of income and job opportunities for this region is in danger of being cancelled as a result of the very poor condition of the roads. These are genuine complaints and have serious financial and employment implications for this community as, if no action is taken very soon, no dairy or guest house means retrenchment of employees.
In the Cacadu District Municipality serious action is required to repairs sections of the R75. This road links farmers and mines in the north with the Port Elizabeth harbour. Farmers from the Beaufort West also use this route. PE is an offset point for meat, wool and mohair and therefore plays a vital role in the economy of the province. Soon Coega will start importing and exporting and this will mean heavier traffic on this road as an alternative route to the PE-Cradock national road (N10). It is also the shortest route.
Further, the dire situation of crater-like potholes on the R63, N2, R72 and many other provincial roads is causing damage to vehicles.
I have been informed of several cases where people are suing the Department of Roads for damage to cars caused by the non-timeous repair of potholes.
For the community of Riebeeck East its economic lifeline is the R400. This road has deteriorated to such an extent that companies are refusing to delivery supplies to the town because the damage to their vehicles are too high. Similarly, taxis which have to use the road suffer and struggle to get people to Grahamstown to go to doctors, go shopping or collect pensions and grants. It is nearly impossible to stimulate any kind of economic growth in the area, which would provide employment for local people, due mainly to the condition of the road.
The lack of action in sorting out ongoing road maintenance makes a mockery of the commitment by the provincial government to fast track economic prosperity.
Having been inundated with requests for urgent action to fix damaged, potholed roads, the department gives no feedback or acknowledgement on progress of each problem.
The condition of our provincial roads has reached catastrophic proportions and the department needs to inform the public of what immediate action plans it has to address this road mayhem in our province.