KLCBT President Oupa Pilane responds to the Mpumalanga Dept of Works, Roads and Transport (MDPWRT) : Fix our roads!Author: KLCBT | Published by KLCBT on 17 April 2018 at 15:48:36 | Last Updated On: 17 April 2018
Following the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism’s front-page article in the Lowvelder recently, regarding the seriously dangerous state of the roads in province, we received comment from the Mpumalanga Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport (DPWRT). Below is the department’s comment on the article, and a further reponose from the KLCBT.
DPWRT: The Mpumalanga Province realises the importance of tourism as a key economic driver. In spite of limited resources, the province has invested on a number of roads that leads to tourism infrastructure. Our intervention on these roads is aimed at upgrading particular roads (from gravel to tar) and rehabilitation/reconstruction.
KLCBT: This is the first time ever that there has been an acknowledgement from the DPWRT that tourism is a key economic driver in the province. Perhaps that is why there has been NO prioritisation of tourism roads in the province.
DPWRT: Some of the projects already undertaken or planned, leading to tourism infrastructure in the Lowveld in particular include:
- Rehabilitation (reconstruction)of the R36 between Bambi and Mashishing – Phase 1 has been completed, Phase 2 is underway and at advanced stage whilst Phase 3 which is the final stage is planned to commence by the 2020/21financial year (Panorama Route).
- KLCBT: Does this imply that the total 47km stretch of the R36 will be rebuilt to a quality sufficient to handle the heavy traffic (ore trucks in particular) that use this road? Given the state of the road, why is it only going to be completed in 2020/21. Sanral offered to take over this road from province and with their greater resources, would have been able to ensure the timeous reconstruction of this road. Why did the DPWRT not hand this road over to Sanral?
- DPWRT: Selective light rehabilitation of the R536 between Sabie and Hazyview. Designs will be made in this new financial year (2018/19) and construction is scheduled to commence in the 2019/20 financial (Panorama Route). KLCBT: This road needs much more that light rehabilitation. The R536 between Sabie and Hazyview is in an appalling condition with many, many potholes, blocked drains, sinkage and collapse of some built up road supports and an obvious lack of roadside maintenance. Unless these issues are attended to first, a light rehabilitation will be a complete waste of money as it will not solve the issues on this road.
- DPWRT: Light rehabilitation and major maintenance of the road between Graskop and Matibidi. Also here, designs will be made in this new financial year (2018/19) and construction is scheduled to commence in 2019/20 financial year (Panarama Route).
- KLCBT: We notice that this has begun, but unfortunately it looks as if only selective parts are being attended to. The issue here is that it is all very well to repair the potholes, but the sheer volume of potholes that need repairing renders the road surface very rough and bumpy. Post the pothole maintenance, this road also needs resurfacing. This is the premier section of the Panorama Route.
- DPWRT: On the R537 road from White River to Sabie, over R1 million has been invested and the following interventions were made in the 2017/18 financial year: pothole repairs and grass cutting (Panorama Route). KLCBT: The condition of that section of the road is so bad that one wonders why the contractors were paid. There has been no quality check on the work that has been done there. The work is so poor that the road is in a worse condition than it was before the so-called repairs were done. The DWPRT has been ripped off here as there is absolutely no value for money in the work done. This 2 km odd section of road needs to be properly repaired and resurfaced.
- DPWRT: The rehabilitation and major maintenance of the R538 between White River and Jerusalem/Masoyi, near Hazyview, which leads to both Numbi and Kruger Gates has been recently completed (Panorama Route). KLCBT: There is no mention made of any work done or planned on the R533 (Graskop to Bushbuckridge). This includes Kowyn’s Pass (in a dangerously poor condition), which is a key route from Hazyview to the Panorama Route. There has been no roadside maintenance (clearing of drains, etc.) or pothole repairs there for a long time. What is the immediate plan for this road? The same applies to the R535 from the junction of the R533 to Hazyview.
DPWRT: The department’s Annual Maintenance Programme includes, amongst others: routine maintenance activities, such as grass cutting, cleaning of drains, road markings, road signs replacement and repair, and major maintenance activities include, amongst others, pothole patching and resealing, shoulder repairs and slip failure repairs. Although resources are limited an effort is being made to prioritise roads serving tourism corridors.
KLCBT: One of the reasons that our tourism roads are in such bad condition is that this routine maintenance is simply not being done. One only has to drive any of the roads mentioned above to see that the contractors are not doing their jobs. For example, the R532 from Sabie to Graskop – no lines at all have been painted on section that has was resurfaced two years ago.
DPWRT: The province through DEDET has commenced a series of engagements with the various tourism chambers in the province to ensure that government planning takes into consideration the priorities of the sector. The initiative has commenced with roads infrastructure but will eventually include other infrastructure provisions and maintenance as well. Representatives from KLCBT are part of the engagements and it is hoped that government working with the sector will also find other creative ways on how more financial resources can be availed for infrastructure provision and maintenance to support tourism in the province.
KLCBT: For the record, it was only through the insistence from KLCBT that DPWRT meet with us that meetings have finally commenced. KLCBT has been driving this agenda, trying for many months to schedule meetings with DPWRT to address the roads crisis, simply to be fobbed off at every occasion. Finally, on 5/4/2018, we managed to secure a meeting with the HODs of DEDET and DPWRT, to which neither HOD arrived. Other officials were sent instead. The agenda that KLCBT is trying to get onto the table is that the conditions of our tourism (and other) roads are so bad that we face a crisis situation. This requires a realisation of this fact and that the DPWRT cannot simply carry on with the “business as usual” view. Serious intervention is needed to play catch-up on our rapidly degrading road infrastructure. An option is to hand all our provincial roads over to Sanral (as Limpopo province has done) as a more effective and skilled implementer of road maintenance and upgrading. The performance of Mpumalanga DPWRT is simply not up to scratch.
DPWRT: The Mpumalanga Provincial Government and in particular the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport is fully aware of the condition of the road network in the province. The province has a total road network of about 13 875 km, of which 8 540 km are gravel and only 5 355 are tarred.
KLCBT: While it is good that the DPWRT is fully aware of the condition of the road network, it remains strange that additional help from national government and/or Sanral has not been escalated and that steps have not been taken to better manage the road maintenance and upgrade contracts.
DPWRT: In this regard and in collaboration with National Department of Transport, great effort to ensure there is good and timely maintenance of the road infrastructure as well as provide reliable road infrastructure for previously neglected communities has been realised.
KLCBT: Previously neglected communities still suffer with a huge maintenance and upgrade backlog.
DPWRT: The twin demands of maintaining existing infrastructure and upgrading infrastructure in previously neglected and under-developed communities places a huge budgetary burden on government and consequently there is a huge infrastructure maintenance and upgrade backlog. The available limited resources are therefore applied to best advantage of the entire provincial infrastructure.
KLCBT: The first response to criticism about the road network is always about a lack of resources. This is questionable and often an easy excuse for incompetence. KLCBT is led to believe that many road-related contracts are issued at inflated prices, that no quality checks are done on the contracted work and that expensive outsourced systems (such as the RAMs system) do not deliver the required outcomes.