Billions for politics of potholes

2011-05-14 15:29

Holes in the ground, whether toilets or potholes, have turned into the biggest rallying cry for this week’s municipal election.

The issues have provided a valuable marketing gap for insurance companies and legal battles are being fought in their name.

Chasms in our roads do more than send drivers and politicians alike into a public spectacle of angry rhetoric.

Think of a stretch of road called ­Dinokana in Ramatlabama, a farming enclave in Mafikeng. Residents there know that anybody driving straight on that road is probably drunk.

Popular entertainer and farmer Molemi Morule says he believes “the road is neglected because its part of Lucas Mangope’s legacy.”

In this way potholes acquire a­ ­historical weight as well. And politicians are using them to forge a path to election glory.

The DA has been promising voters in Tshwane that, if voted into office, they’ll fix the potholes within 48 hours of them being reported.

This was one of their top 10 promises when they launched their manifesto.

The ruling ANC, through Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele, has announced that government will spend R22 billion over the next three years to fix potholes on all secondary and local roads across the country.

The project, known as S’hamba Sonke, will entail R6.2bn being set aside for 2011; another R7.5bn to be spent in the next financial year and R8.2bn to cover 2013-14.

Bradley De Chenne, senior executive at Dialdirect, the short term insurance company, spends “a million rands a month” on their pothole brigades, a corporate social investment in terms of which the company repairs potholes across Gauteng.

De Chenne insists that the amount of money spent should not be seen as a mechanism to save on pothole-related claims.

“Remember that we only fix in Gauteng and we have clients nationally,” he said, cautioning that “potholes cost our economy hundreds of millions of rand from damage to vehicles that interrupts the flow of goods”.

The pothole brigade, three teams of about five men with Jetpacker trucks, have repaired 17 000 potholes on roads inside Johannesburg’s N14 ring – from Rooihuiskraal to Roodepoort, across to Germiston, up to Bedfordview, to Sandton and across to Olifantsfontein.

The Jetpatcher, a machine which fills pothole swiftly and efficiently, has been used all over the world for about 28 years but it only reached our shores four years ago.

“The problem is that roads built today are not built with the mindset that they must last another 15 years,” said Jetpacker boss Chris Hoöman.

The whole process takes on average, a record-breaking 15 minutes and the Jetpacker’s compressor operates at a speed of 100 km/hr.

» The public can report potholes via www.­leadsa.co.za or ­

www.potholebrigade.co.za, by dialling *120*1551# or by visiting the mobi site ­potholebrigade.mobi.

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