South Africa faces a roads maintenance backlog of R38,3-billion, it emerged on Monday.

Responding to a parliamentary question by Democratic Alliance MP Stuart Farrow, Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said the country was facing a R18,4-billion backlog with regards to the upkeep of the core national road network.

In the provinces, there was a further R19,9-billion backlog, bringing the total to R38,3-billion.

Farrow said Ndebele “was unable to say whether or not the backlog can be addressed, only that this is the current situation and whether or not it will be overcome is dependent on sufficient funds being made available by the Treasury”.

“As with the country’s electricity, water and railways infrastructure, the current situation with regards to our roads is a consequence of years of neglect, poor planning and a lack of foresight.

“As a consequence we now sit with a situation whereby the backlogs are so big, that it is next to impossible to ever eradicate them,” he said.

The government would be forced to borrow money. The result of that would not only be that repayment on interest furthered the cost, but roads would have to be transformed into toll roads to help recover monies spent, and the public would have to pay.

Should that not happen, many roads would fall into disrepair, beyond even rehabilitation and, ultimately the road network would shrink.

“The consequences of this for our economy are profound.”

On the one hand, ever increasing amounts of the budget would have to be set aside to maintain the ever smaller distance of roads managed by the national administration.

On the other hand, crumbling roads meant public transport and the transport of goods were affected.

The DA would raise the issue before the portfolio committee on transport, when its annual report was discussed, Farrow said.

In his reply, Ndebele said the backlog that existed was with regard to the strengthening of the network.

Currently 4142 km (32%) of the non-toll national road network had a remaining structural life of less than five years, and were in need of strengthening within the next five years.

The financial need for strengthening over the next five years was R35,2-billion.

The current MTEF budget allocation for strengthening over the next five years was R16,8-billion, which meant only an estimated 1980 km would be strengthened.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
DATED: 19th October 2009