Repairing two streets with a combined length of 1.8km has cost the Mpumalanga department of public works, roads and transport R17 million.
The department fixed potholes on Ennis and Naude streets in Ermelo in March as part of its municipal support programme, which aims to assist “distressed” municipalities with road maintenance projects to access “social amenities” such as clinics and schools.
These two streets in Ermelo’s central business district lead to the local long-distance taxi rank.
The cost has caused an outcry among residents, who questioned why so much money was spent on such a small section of road.
City Press spoke to an expert in costing infrastructural projects, who said public concern was justified because the price tag far exceeded the construction of a whole new road.
“A new 4km road with three layers and surfacing will cost about R6 million to construct. Rehabilitating a road of the same length will cost about R2 million if every part of the 4km is done,” said the expert, who declined to be named. “This doesn’t look good at all.”
According to the expert, the rehabilitation of 1.8km of road was overpriced by about R15.5 million.
Ermelo residents expressed their horror on social media when the department announced the handover of the completed project.
“Seventeen million rand to fix that street? Kudlaliwe ngathi nje [They have toyed with us],” said one resident.
“Forty employees and R17 million for the project? I wonder bayohola malini [how much are they are going to earn] … maybe R100 000 per person,” said another.
“Isibindi sokuvula [Such bravery to hand over] and disclose the amount [with the involvement of the premier]!” exclaimed another.
On April 26, soon after the Ermelo road project was presented as complete, Premier Refilwe Mtshweni and Public Works MEC Gillion Mashego attended a sod-turning event for the rehabilitation of the 9km-long D2486 road in Klipwal near Piet Retief, which will cost R88 million.
The district road project, said the expert, was overpriced by more than R25 million – and that was only if a new road was being built from scratch.
“A new district or regional road should at most cost about R7 million a kilometre. Since this road is being rehabilitated and not started afresh, it is overpriced. If it was a new road, I would say it’s overpriced by R25 million even if a bridge was being constructed along it,” the expert said.
The spokesperson for the Mpumalanga department of public works, roads and transport, Cyril Dlamini, defended the high costs of rehabilitating the roads.
In South Africa, Dlamini said, roads may be upgraded, rehabilitated and/or reconstructed from as little as R5 million per kilometre to as much as R140 million per kilometre.
“This depends on repetitive loading [mainly determined by the number of axle loads frequenting the road] likely to be encountered by the road over a chosen structural design period,” he said.
“To suggest that construction of a three-layered road with surfacing will cost R4 million without commenting on expected loading repetitions to be carried by the same road, as well as the chosen structural design period, is irresponsible and misleading.”
Dlamini added that the department was satisfied with the cost of the rehabilitation of the two streets in Ermelo, “considering the scope of work and that standard rates were applied on the project”.
However, he did not provide a bill of quantities nor an itemised cost breakdown for the streets. He said the Klipwal road cost was determined “as per the prevailing market rates at the time of tender”.
However, the expert to whom City Press spoke continued to insist that the costs were inflated.