Lack of maintenance to blame.

The state of our provincial and municipal roads is on the same level – if not worse – than the crisis Eskom is facing.

The roads are in a shocking condition – no, in fact, that is an understatement. A few days of rain and poor maintenance over time and you have a city that is completely ridden with potholes.

What is incredible is that, although they do get fixed, the same ones tend to reappear, along with many new ones. The bottom line is that our roads are getting worse. There is probably not one person who can say they haven’t hit a pothole while travelling in and around Joburg in the past six months.

Why is this the case, you ask. Dr Wynand Steyn, research group leader for transport infrastructure engineering at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, told me it was due to poor planning, and lack of maintenance and knowledge. Repairing all these potholes is nothing more than crisis management. Hardly any preventive maintenance has been done in decades, and many of the roads are simply crumbling away.

According to conservative estimates, it would cost at least R40-billion to rehabilitate provincial and municipal roads. Where do all the taxes and fuel levies we pay go to?

Our cars are being damaged by these nasty potholes. Tyres get ruined, rims get damaged, and the lifespan of your car’s suspension and shock absorbers is shortened considerably. We haven’t even begun to count the cost of human life and injuries sustained in accidents.

Insurance companies have confirmed that pothole-related claims have increased, and millions are paid out each month. I called several tyre dealers and discovered that three out of every 10 cars that go into a dealership for repairs are because they’ve hit a pothole. In some areas, that figure is as high as five out of every 10 cars.

Some areas are worse than others. In the north, Bryanston, Sunninghill, Fourways, Midrand, Northriding and Lanseria are particularly bad; in the east, Alexandra, Meadowdale, Alberton and parts of Bedfordview and Germiston. In the south, travel cautiously in Ennerdale, Zakariyya Park, Lenasia and Soweto. In the west, Radiokop, Northcliff and parts of Roodepoort are a problem. In fact, I would say there isn’t one area that isn’t affected.

The Johannesburg Roads Agency repaired 67 174 potholes between July 1 2007 and March 20, at a cost of R4,7-million. I think we can add another 3 000 to that number just in the past week.

There is some good news in all of this – if you can call it that. If your car is damaged as a result of a pothole, you can claim from the Johannesburg Roads Agency. Call 011-298-5148 to obtain a claim form, and after submitting it, your claim will be logged and a reference number will be provided. Provide as much information as possible, such as photographs of the damage sustained.