Hotel’s pothole saga goes to PMB court

2010-03-11 00:00

A CASE in which Cathedral Peak Hotel owners in the Drakensberg are attempting to move the KwaZulu-Natal Transport Department to fix an allegedly dangerous pothole problem, as well as replace and repair signs on roads leading to the hotel, has been referred to the high court in Pietermaritzburg.

The roads in question are the P180 and P10/2 and the D394 district roads in the area.

It is alleged department employee Godfrey Matjila and his senior, Johan Jooste, gave undertakings at meetings held with hotel representatives in 2007 that the signage would be repaired and re-erected, and that the potholes, which are especially severe on the D394, would be repaired.

However, the undertakings were allegedly not honoured.

Matjila denies these allegations and maintains in his affidavit that the potholes on the D394 were repaired.

In response to criticisms that potholes were not properly fixed, but were repaired using a “mixture of gravel and soil”, which was unacceptable, Matjila said the duty of the department to maintain the road has to be viewed in the context of the “province’s available resources”.

“Whether the manner in which the potholes were fixed is acceptable to the applicants is an entirely different matter,” he said

Matjila, the Estcourt Cost Centre manager (Ladysmith region), said there is no responsibility for employees in that area to do more than they have.

He points out in his affidavit that the Transport Department is severely underfunded, receiving only 40% of required funding.

“With such miniscule funding, districts such as mine try to distribute the funds fairly throughout its districts and address various road infrastructure projects” across its entire road network, he said.

Matjila maintained that at his insistence, signage had been procured and erected on the roads in question, but he was aware that some were later damaged by vehicles. Others were still being installed at the time of his affidavit.

In his affidavit, hotel owner William van der Riet said all attempts to move the Transport Department to effect the neccessary repairs to the signage and road surface leading to the hotel have come to nothing.

He said signage is either missing entirely or damaged and the roads are in total disrepair. The road surfa­ces are rough and uneven, and the tarmac is crumbling and “riddled with potholes”, some of them large. The roads are unsafe for motor vehicles and motorcycles to travel on.

Photographs taken in 2008 showed large cracks in the road surface as well as stetches where the tar has given way on the side of the road, rendering it hazardous to traffic.

Some potholes were said to be 1,5 metres long, a metre wide and 20 cm deep. On their own these could cause vehicles to overturn with “catastrophic consequences”, submitted Van der Riet.

He said the hotel sells almost 60 000 rooms a year, resulting in some 15 000 vehicles travelling the roads to the hotel in a year. This excludes all day visitors, staff motor vehicles and drivers who live in the area.

He has also received complaints from guests at the heritage site and the hotel that their vehicles were damaged as a result of the “deplorable” state of the road. Many also complained they had lost their way to the hotel as the signage was missing, illegible or confusing.

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