There's an excavator on my stoep...
Cobus Coetzee and Tom Nkosi
Barberton - "There's a government excavator on my stoep," says Mpumalanga farmer Gerrie Roets.
For more than five months, Roets, who lives in Barberton, has been telling his friends and relatives that the provincial government left a Volvo excavator valued more than R2m just several metres from his front door.
He told African Eye News Service that the 30 ton machine was left by government contractors and officials who were working on the Snymansbult dirt road that connects Barberton and Kaapsehoop.
“The road is worse than when construction work was started late last year. They messed up badly; excavations were left half done. Rocks and gravel fall into the road, making it very dangerous,” Roets said.
The farmer said he had suffered more than R100 000 in damages to his truck and his business due to the road.
“I’m so frustrated. I just want to sell the farm and buy a farm next to the tarred road,” he said.
He said officials from the provincial department of public works, roads and transport brought the excavator in August 2011.
“I first thought it was funny why government equipment was used by a private contractor to work on the road, but was happy that at least something was being done,” he said.
Road workers worked on the road for a month before an official asked Roets if they could , "meanwhile", park the excavator in his yard.
He said that “meanwhile” turned into months and by December weeds started growing out of the excavator.
Roets said an official wanted to remove the excavator late last year but his wife Anelette prevented him from taking it away.
“She told the official straight: ‘First fix the road before you remove this thing’. She doesn’t take kak,” Roets said proudly.
He said an official visited the area again in December to see if the machine was still in good working order.
When AENS first contacted the department about the excavator on January 26, department of public works, roads and transport spokesperson David Nkambule denied that the excavator was abandoned next to the road.
The next day, government sent a technician and officials to remove the excavator from Roets' farm.
“I was not at home and first saw the excavator on the road driving towards my house. I thought, ‘ Good, they've come to fix the road,' but later saw a truck with a low bed trailer come fetch the excavator,” said Roets.
“It is disheartening to think the equipment has been there for months, but the road is still is such a poor state.”
Nkambule denies the excavator was ever abandoned.
“According to the information we have the excavator was not abandoned but was left on site as it was broken. It has since been removed and parked at the departmental premises,” he said this week.
Roets denies it was ever broken.
Meanwhile Nkambule admitted that a moratorium has been placed on all road maintenance work in the province as the department has a projected shortfall of over R50m.