Much as in the rest of Mzansi, potholed roads in parts of KwaZulu-Natal have become so commonplace that farmers have had to change the way they operate.
“We have been forced to transport our produce with the trucks now,” says Thabani Bhengu, a farmer from the Msinga local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. “I have had to stop using the small cars to transport my produce because of the potholes. And even the small bakkies we can’t drive now, because they, too, get damaged by the potholes.”
He adds that the dilapidated state of the roads in the Umzinyathi district is affecting him negatively, especially at night and when it is raining, since the low visibility of potholes have caused tyre damage to his vehicles.
Bhengu says that municipalities have started to fix roads now that it is near election time, but that he doesn’t know what will happen after the upcoming local elections.
Secondary roads the worst
Morgan Brand, a farmer and soil scientist from the Ugu district, tells Food For Mzansi that the pothole-ravaged roads in his district not only inconvenience farmers and farmworkers but all road users living and working in rural and residential areas that connect to the R61.
“The R61, which is the main road, is functional and fine, but it is all the roads that branch onto that from the residential areas and the rural areas that are absolutely buggered, and there has been no work… into that.”
Brand says that municipalities would often start grading and cleaning roads particularly before election time, but “disappear” afterwards.
“You get big work coming in. Then they disappear for another five years and the roads remain untarred and not looked after and it becomes a serious problem for service delivery for the rural places. It’s [rural] roads that are not being looked after or even addressed, whereas the main road, that seems like it doesn’t really have any issues, has had huge amounts of money being put into it.”
‘Department of transport plans to fix roads’
Lelethu Manentsa, the deputy director of marketing and external communications at the department of agriculture and environmental affairs in KwaZulu-Natal, says the potholes in the province have been caused by significant rains, road destruction and unrest in the province.
He adds that on both rural and national roads, there has been an increase in road strikes that have impacted on their state.
But there are road maintenance plans put in place to fix these roads.
“The department of transport within the province has got plans to fix the regional roads. Obviously the municipal roads will be fixed by the municipality,” he says.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.