The state of South Africa’s roads continues to take their toll on the country’s food producers. Dilapidated road infrastructure is having a disastrous effect on agricultural produce, marketing, and the livelihoods of farmers.
For KwaZulu-Natal sugarcane farmer Lee Hlubi, the stretch between Empangeni up to where the road unites with the R66, is a nightmare. Hlubi farms on Nkwalini along the R34, which comes from Richards Bay.
On her route, Hlubi comes across many potholes. These, she said, have been reported but take very long to fix.
“These potholes cause breakdowns. Sometimes they lead to accidents because of the blind spots, and even the closeness of potholes in a short strip in the same vicinity.
“We’re also challenged by stray livestock wandering the same road even at night,” explained Hlubi.
According to her, the reason for the fast deterioration of the R34 is that heavy-duty vehicles started to use the road. This came about after trucks were prohibited from using the N2 past Pongola, and now use the R34 as an alternative route.
“I must say, the contractor being used currently is far better as we see a difference from the re-emerging of these potholes days after they have been fixed,” Hlubi said.
In Keiskammahoek in the Eastern Cape, crop farmer Siphosihle Maseko struggles with unpaved roads. He said buyers struggle to access his farm.
“It is very difficult for buyers to come to the farm to buy produce, customers are always complaining,” he told Food For Mzansi.
Maseko remains hopeful that the road will be developed into tar very soon.
Free State Agriculture (FSA) commercial manager Jack Armour said a road engineer report revealed that the roads do not generally meet any of the requirements set by the department, as per the TRH20 manual, and are generally in bad to extremely poor condition.
“It is shocking that our public roads have reverted to such a poor state of disrepair,” Armour said.
Pleas falling on deaf ears
FSA has repeatedly, since 2018 and at a very high level, called for the filling of the “pick-and-shovel” type jobs to clear waterways, unblock drains, and repair broken culverts to divert water away from the roads.
However, according to Armour, “This is not being done hence deep slots form next to roads and in pipe culverts and the road. It’s the poor who drive small vehicles and have to rely on public transport who suffer the most.”
According to FSA, the most dangerous roads in the province are the R34 Memel-Vrede R103 Warden roads, R34 Memel to Vrede road, and R34 Vrede to Memel to Botha’s Pass.
“The general condition of the Free State roads are in a very poor condition. It is unsafe to use the roads and the likelihood of accidents which could result in serious injury or loss of life, is high.
“The poor condition of the roads will result in damage to vehicles, goods, or other equipment,” he said.
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