Muddy road impassable

2009-03-03 00:00

“We’re not important people, you know. But it’s just a kilometre or so of road. That’s all we’re asking for,” said Priscilla Francis, the elderly wife of a Balgowan farm owner.

Mrs Francis’s husband Peter is 93 years old and needs daily at-home medical assistance. But for the past two weeks, ordinary vehicles have not been able to travel on the dirt road to their farm because they have been turned into a muddy mess by the recent heavy rains.

“I’ve been stuck here for a fortnight. It really isn’t a problem driving on that road — it’s impossible,” Mrs Francis said.

The couple’s phone lines have also been down for the past two weeks and technicians haven’t been able to assist them because of the road.

Mrs Francis, who has lived in the area for 35 years, said that they have not “caused much of a fuss” regarding the road over the years, and that they are really disappointed at “the uncaring attitude” of the Transport Department regarding the matter when it was recently taken up.

They are but one of the families living on the D533 road who are fed up with the department’s lack of interest in this particular road.

June Song, the Francises’ immediate neighbour, said that her main concern is the lack of security caused by the present condition of the road.

“What if a medical emergency arises? Ambulances can’t get in here,” she said. “What if we need to call the security company? How will they get through?”

Song said that on Friday she and her daughter got stuck at the entrance of the alternative route that they’ve had to use, which trails through the fields of one of the farms in the area.

“Well, it’s just as bad. If you do not own a 4X4, you’re not even going to be able to get through that,” she said pointing at the shin-deep mud at the entrance to the route.

Song said that she had to phone her neighbour, Marilyn Revesz, to winch them out. “It was either that or park off and walk home in the dark in the rain,” she said.

She added that many of her neighbours have had to do so ever since the problem arose.

The department did eventually send out somebody to grade the roads last week, but, Song said, he refused to finish the road in fear of getting stuck himself. “You can’t just grade the road and expect it to be fine. This is clay. The minute it rains again it ends up like this again. You need to blue chip it,” she said.

Song said that when the department were upgrading the nearby Caversham Road, her husband asked the department to upgrade their road as well. His request, she said, was blatantly ignored.

Revesz, who works from home, said that they’ve approached department officials many times and have been given many excuses as to why the road could not be upgraded, ranging from budget constraints to the weather.

Revesz manages the Terlings Farm belonging to the family of the late Helen Suzman, and also does landscaping in the area. She said the state of the road has really taken its toll on her business.

“I haven’t been able to see half of my clients in the past two days,” she said.

Gregory Williams, who owns a bed and breakfast in the area, said that he has had to cancel three bookings this weekend alone. “That’s about R3 000 gone,” he said.

Williams said that he has had enough of the department’s excuses.

“We pay rates. We have to see to our own bore-holes … and there are no street lights,” he said.

“And when we do ask them for help they turn us away… So what are we paying for?”

All the residents said the department claims that money has been allocated for the maintenance of roads in the area, but still nothing has been done.

“They say that they are fixing the roads. But we know they’re not, we live here,” said Song.

The Witness reported just yesterday about the ramshackle conditions of the Sani Pass Road in the Drakensberg. Many images were sent in by readers showing potholes there at least 0,5 metres deep. Other complains were received regarding similar conditions on roads in and around Pietermaritzburg.

By the time of going to press the department had not responded to The Witness’ request for comment.

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