UPDATE: Thank you to all our readers for their pothole images. We've included some reader responses and images in this article.
Cape Town - One of the many frustrations motorists face on South African roads is the danger of potholes.
These holes are commonplace throughout SA and are often the cause of hefty repair bills. Not only can hitting one seriously damage your vehicle but they can lead to deadly crashes. Sadly, as is the case with most service delivery issues, local governments are often slow in remedying the situation.
For some cities, such as Cape Town, it's an ongoing battle; the City of Cape Town says it "fixes 260 potholes each week".
Wheels24 approached Howard Dembovsky, national chairman of Justice Project South Africa (JPSA), to discus the pothole situation in SA.
Wheels24: What is a pothole and how is it formed?
JPSA: "Roadways should be even surfaces free of holes. A pothole is a depression or hollow in a road surface caused by wear or subsidence'.
"Generally, all potholes start of quite small and increase in size and depth as more and more vehicles drive over or into it."
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Wheels24: What is the process with regards to fixing a pothole?
JPSA: "Road-building and maintenance is a job for properly qualified engineers and workers, using specialised equipment and materials. It is inadvisable for any unqualified person to do so since they can end up doing more damage than good. It’s not as simple as pouring some concrete or tar into it and just like most people would not even think of trying to fill a dental cavity themselves. They really should leave this job to the professionals."
Wheels24: Are there laws preventing the public from taking matters into their own hands?
JPSA: "It is an offence to cause damage to the road surface, so theoretically, members of the public can be prosecuted for taking matters into their own hands."
Wheels24: How are potholes fixed? How do we (the public) know if those assigned to remedy the issue are qualified?
JPSA: "They (municipalities) hire road maintenance firms to do so, or have their own internalised road maintenance departments do so. Sadly, the public won't know whether the people fixing the pothole are qualified to do it, or not. They simply need to hope that the road authority has that in hand."
Wheels24: Why is there a delay in repairs (i.e months)? Are there tender processes?
JPSA: "There are tender processes for the awarding of road maintenance tasks, but the most likely reason for extended periods of non-repair can be attributed to lack of budget and/or resources to fix them. And in some cases, the fact that no-one has reported the pothole because people simply assume someone else has.
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The City of Cape Town shares its views on fixing potholes within the Western Cape:
Wheels24: How does the City go about fixing potholes?
Cpt: Transport for Cape Town (TCT), the City’s transport authority, is responsible for the city’s road network of approximately 10 629km.
A total of 47 teams from 20 depots are responsible for repairing potholes and in at least 80% of the cases, the teams meet the City’s own benchmark of fixing a pothole within 72 hours of it being reported to the Transport Information Centre.
Residents report at least 250 potholes to the City’s hotline every week and the other potholes are identified by the supervisory staff at TCT’s depots.
A C3 (fault reporting notification) is generated for every pothole that a resident reports to the City’s fault reporting system. This report is sent to the relevant area depot who passes it on to the responsible crew to undertake the repairs. This administrative process can take up to a day, but in most cases it is sorted out within a matter of hours.
The team will inspect the site and make the road safe for road users, either by repairing the pothole there and then or by demarcating the area if an immediate repair is not possible.
Sometimes delays are caused by inclement weather, the unavailability of asphalt to fix the potholes, or the breakdown of equipment. However, one of our biggest challenges is that the wrong information in relation to the location and address of the pothole is often reflected on the C3 notification system. In this instance residents can greatly assist TCT by providing the correct addresses.
The City does proactive maintenance work as well, such as the resealing and resurfacing of roads to prevent potholes.
The majority of potholes form when water penetrates the asphalt due to the cracking of the road’s asphalt surfacing; when roads have to carry higher volumes of traffic than they were originally designed to carry; or when routine maintenance has not taken place due to funding availability. Grey water discharge onto roads and other sources of water such as natural underground springs are also contributing factors.
Wheels24: Does the City outsource contractors or is there an in-house team that fixes potholes?
Cpt: The above-mentioned 47 teams from 20 TCT depots are responsible for repairing potholes on the city’s roads.
Importantly, the City, over the past 12 months, established four all-female road repair teams based at TCT depots in Ndabeni, Fish Hoek, Heideveld and Kuils River as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) within TCT. Thus far, up to 24 women have been trained to repair and do maintenance work on roads, footways and stormwater infrastructure in these areas.
Wheels24: On average, what are the costs of fixing potholes?
Cpt: TCT has spent R464-million on road maintenance in the 2014/15 year, of which R110mn was allocated for the repair of potholes (the figures for 2015/16 are still being finalised).
Wheels24: How many potholes do you fix per month?
Cpt: At least 260 potholes every week.
Wheels24: Where can the public report potholes?
Cpt: Residents are requested to please report potholes to the Transport Information Centre on 0800 65 64 63 - it operates 24/7 and is toll-free from a landline. Call centre agents can assist callers in isiXhosa, English and Afrikaans. It is also important to give the correct location (street name and nearest corner) of the said pothole.