Deliver or surrender?

Deliver or surrender?

It’s true – some major headway has been made in developing infrastructure in South Africa, but the country’s roads require urgent attention. This was recently highlighted when heavy rainfall, in some provinces, caused havoc on several road networks … which could have been avoided.

Vuyiso Msipa, technical executive at GIBB (a multi-disciplinary engineering consulting firm), says that the roads wouldn’t be in their current state if proper maintenance plans had been implemented years ago … when the government was informed about the rapid deterioration of the country’s key provincial roads.

“Back then, some of the roads were already becoming impassable,” says Msipa. “Today, in some provinces the situation has worsened significantly. Most provinces have found it difficult to maintain all their roads with the resources they have.”

Is this due to mismanagement or creative bookkeeping? Only the respective provinces and their officials would know … But surely something needs to be done. And some provinces are doing just that.

In 2012, the Eastern Cape and North West provinces realised that there was a growing problem with the deterioration of their network and requested the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to take over and maintain about 2 100 km and 1 400 km, respectively, of their roads.

This year, at the request of the province, Sanral will take on the maintenance of an additional 1 628 km of Limpopo’s provincial roads. Sanral is now responsible for to about 12 000 km of roads … A positive step for the country’s road network, according to Msipa.

Deliver or surrender? “Sanral has a proven track record of maintaining roads,” he points out. “A 2013 Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Imperial state of logistics survey on the network taken over by Sanral, in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces, demonstrated that it did a good job of maintaining these primary road networks, making it the obvious choice to handle road networks nationwide.”

There is no denying it, Sanral generally does a great job – when it comes to maintenance … There are some other things that are cause for concern, however, such as Sanral’s continuation of Gauteng’s e-tolls – despite major opposition from various organisations, institutions and the general public at large.

And, as we reported in our newsletter on March 20, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) received information from a reliable, confidential source, close to the system, confirming speculation that Sanral’s ambition has always been to extend e-tolling throughout the country …

“We have learned that the Midrand Central Operations Centre was planned and built to cater for thousands of kilometres of roads, not just the 187 km of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. It now ranks as the second largest storage array in the southern hemisphere,” says John Clarke, Outa spokesperson.

And, if Sanral is in charge of more and more provincial roads, wouldn’t that make it a lot easier for it to extend e-tolling way beyond the confines of Gauteng?

Something has to be done to improve the state of South Africa’s roads, but the mere relinquishment of more roads to Sanral might not be the right path …

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