South Africa faced a roads maintenance backlog of R38.3 billion, it emerged yesterday.

Responding to a parliamentary question by DA MP Stuart Farrow, Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said the country was facing a R18.4bn backlog with regard to the upkeep of the core national road network.

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

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 regard 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 money 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.

On 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.

PUBLICATION: Pretoria News
DATED: 20th October 2009