News / Opinion / Columns

Ntsako Mthethwa
3 minute read
5 Apr 2018
1:57 pm

It’s not only white people who care about potholes

Ntsako Mthethwa

You don't need to look at Auditor-General reports to know whether to keep voting for whoever's in charge. You just need to look at the roads.

Potholes are often disguised by water in rainy seasons. File photo

They are everywhere, they are dangerous and they can cost a fortune or even a life.

I am talking about potholes. South Africa has had the opportunity to be cursed with millions of them and there seems to be no end in sight.

File Picture: @nozintombimiya

File Picture: @nozintombimiya

In Johannesburg alone, an average of 1,000 potholes are reported each week. That is a huge number.

The city claims it fixes up to 4,500 potholes per month, implying they’re fixing even more than those reported.

In Cape Town, the city reportedly spends more than R110 million a year repairing 250 potholes every week.

Despite these massive efforts, potholes are still common on our roads, ready pounce on any unwary driver or strike during heavy rains or the hours of darkness.

Our bad roads are also have a huge knock-on impact on our economy, too.

According to the AA, if there were better upkeep of our roads, there could be an instant decrease in about 5% of road deaths, which cost the economy about R40 billion a year.

The AA has further said that the year 2016 saw 14,071 people dying on our roads – a significant jump from the 12,944 deaths recorded in 2015 – a 9% increase – adding up to 1,120 more people dying year-on-year.

The higher death rate during the Easter weekend and the festive season leaves families and close friends mourning their loved ones every year.

As a motoring journalist, who drives a new car just about every week, I have to navigate these critical hazards in the latest Ferrari or Bentley.

Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi gets his hands dirty at the launch of his department's emergency road maintenance campaign. N14 Beyers Naude Drive offramp, Muldersdrif. Picture: M Saville/Sapa

Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi gets his hands dirty at the launch of his department’s emergency road maintenance campaign. N14 Beyers Naude Drive offramp, Muldersdrif. Picture: M Saville/Sapa

Just recently, I had the new BMW X3 M40i dropped at our offices in Industria. The plan was to drive it down to Mpumalanga, Bushbuckridge, for the Easter holidays.

The trip went fine, until everything went oh-so-wrong in a split second three days later when I came off second best on the pothole-infested streets of Bushbuckridge. Out there in the sticks, the roads live up to the joke that in most places in South Africa we drive on the left … but there we just drive on “what’s left”.

Two of the car’s lovely low-profile tyres were damaged and, after spending almost six hours in the dark in the middle of nowhere with kids, the car was finally towed to Nelspruit, thanks to BMW On Call.

I do not want to sound too political about it but we have municipalities all over that are meant to oversee such matters, but they do nothing about them. Government officials navigate through those roads every day in those big SUVs – but nothing is done.

It is beyond frustrating to me as a taxpayer to note how bad our roads have become.

Despite the fact that I can claim for the damage (which will probably take years to be processed) what if a life was lost?

Come on, let’s get serious!

Often, you see white people (your stereotypical DA voter, for example) being unfairly caricatured as caring only about potholes and not deeper social issues and inequality. But everybody uses our roads, whether they own a car or not, and everyone is at risk if we don’t take care of our transport networks.

This is an issue on which local government elections should be won or lost, I reckon. And more often than not you don’t have to scrutinise Auditor-General reports to know whether a municipality is corrupt or spending its money badly.

You just have to count the potholes.

Ntsako Mthethwa.

Ntsako Mthethwa.


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