South Africa is road-shedding because provincial and local governments don’t maintain roads, not because of e-tolls
OUTA regards Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula’s explanation for South Africa’s shocking and deteriorating road conditions as misleading and unfounded.
Minister Mbalula is fundamentally wrong to say that important money required for road maintenance was being used to service debt that had been built up by the failed e-toll project.
Treasury has been allocating additional grants to SANRAL, to the tune of almost R14bn over the past six years, to offset the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project bonds. On top of that, SANRAL has also received significant increases in allocations from National Treasury for its non-tolled road network since 2010, which has increased from R5.7billion per annum in 2010 to R17.3 billion in 2021, some of which has been due to SANRAL’s uptake of a number of the important provincial roads that our provincial authorities have been unable to manage and maintain.
The real issue of our deteriorating road network does not pertain to the national and tolled routes managed by SANRAL. Our problems lie at provincial and local government levels, where Treasury’s allocations, as well as the public revenues in municipalities, are not being prudently spent or managed when maintaining and building regional and municipal roads. Furthermore in many cases, if not most, road building and maintenance projects at local and provincial government levels are over-priced and come with shoddy work standards by contractors who are not being managed properly.
The overall problem is one of a lack of leadership, transparency and accountability at provincial and local government, which is largely to blame for our dire and deteriorating road network in South Africa. Robust and transparent procurement practices and meaningful oversight relating to workmanship have been sorely lacking. Cadre deployment and ineptitude have added to the problem of a lack of financial discipline and accountability.
Our roads will continue to deteriorate and many roads that were once tarred will be converted to gravel roads in the next few years, until our Minister of Transport takes hold of the situation. MECs in charge of transport and roads in our provinces where our road conditions have deteriorated have not been held accountable. Funds allocated to provinces and municipalities for road infrastructure need to be managed differently going forward. These should be paid directly to the contractors by Treasury and / or structures with civil society participation in municipalities, to ensure that due diligence and proper oversight has been applied.
For as long as we have people in government who fail to lead and take charge of this dire situation, or are unable to fulfil the roles and responsibilities allocated to them – including the ability to fire and remove inept and poorly performing staff and contractors – the serious issue of potholes and “road-shedding” will continue to plague our country and become a significant burden on our economy.
A soundclip with comment from OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage is here.