The dangerous state of the roads in rural areas are driving up costs for agriculture, and that can mean increases in the prices of locally produced foods. Luckily, our farmers have our backs.
Whilst the Department of Transport last year admitted that R35 billion is not nearly enough to fix the bad state of Mzansi’s roads, Agri SA remains committed to upgrading pothole-ridden roads in rural towns.
Agri SA, a federation of agricultural organisations, warns that poor rural road conditions does not only affect farmers, but also has a negative ripple effect on the agricultural industry and the South African economy as a whole. Nicol Jansen, who heads up Agri SA’s Centre of Economics and Trade, says they are well on their way with a new project aimed at preventing a road catastrophe.
“The condition of the roads in rural areas causes an escalation in production costs to the farming industry. That is one aspect. The other is a safety aspect and therefore it is really necessary to better the condition of the roads. Most of these roads are gravel roads. They are not bladed on a regular basis, and it leads to conditions that are unsafe and damage vehicles.”
According to Jansen, trucks are already unable to collect agricultural supplies on certain farms making it incredibly difficult for farmers to reach markets. Bad roads directly affect the farmer through increased transport costs, loss of market value of the transported cargo, and reduction in revenue.
Jansen adds that Agri SA is in partnership with different district municipalities to fix rural roads nationwide. “Our local branches will arrange meetings with district municipalities on a regular basis. We will use our structure to prioritise the roads that need attention first. We can also use our infrastructure in monitoring the equipment on the roads while the work is being done.”
However, Agri SA’s project does not indemnify local and provincial governments from their legal responsibility to fix South Africa’s ageing road infrastructure. Jansen says it remains the responsibility of the Department of Transport and Public Works to contract district municipalities for roadworks.
“The transport department has local offices in some of the provinces, such as the Free State and the Northern Cape. Other provinces sub-contracted the service to district municipalities. So, they are responsible for the work, but due to poor management, poor spending of funding, coordination issues, prioritising the roads that should be done first, the whole aspect of procurement of contractors to be contracted to fix roads – all these kind of elements need help, coordination and input. We are trying from Agri SA’s side to better the situation.”
The ongoing work has already kicked off in the Northern Cape where more people have been appointed to help with monitoring the state of the roads and collecting data. However, it won’t be fixed overnight. “We have to analyse the real problems. We have to address the real problems and we have to better the mechanism to be more effective.”
Many South Africans have since started fixing potholes and bad roads in both rural and urban areas.
The Eastern Cape High Court ruled in 2017 that private citizens and local structures are allowed to perform basic service delivery functions with taxpayers’ money. In the judgement, the High Court ordered the provincial Roads Department to reimburse farmers who carried out maintenance themselves, subject to strict conditions, including giving the department 30 days notice of the repairs and obtaining at least two independent quotes.