Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
The Mpumalanga Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport have practically ceased the maintaining of gravel roads within the province, with gravel roads across Mpumalanga requiring urgent maintenance and repair. This is according to a written response to DA questions by MEC Dikeledi Mahlangu.
Mpumalanga’s rural economy is dependent on well-maintained gravel roads and the deteriorated state of these roads is crippling many industries and communities dependant on these roads.
The department does not have a routine maintenance plan for such roads – as confirmed by the MEC’s response – which has resulted in their appalling state. According to the MEC, only 7 % of 8 492 gravel roads are in a decent condition, 36% in a “fair” condition and a whopping 57% in a poor condition.
MEC Mahlangu further stated that R20 million would be made available to re-gravel 10 roads, which is nearly not enough, given that over R700 million is required to solve this problem. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that only 43 of the department’s 88 graders are in a working condition.
The department’s current gravel road maintenance programme is clearly lacking the approach it deserves. With almost 675 million kilometres travelled on gravel roads every year, and many being primary residential and business access roads, their condition plays a crucial role in Mpumalanga’s economic growth.
Gravel road maintenance and repair programmes are a fairly simple operation provided the department implements and oversees a regular schedule and greatly reduces bureaucratic red tape.
Furthermore, the maintenance of quality gravel roads is essential, and the DA believes that by entering into public-private-partnerships maintenance costs and services could be shared between private individuals or companies and the state. However, this should not absolve the department from any responsibility, and it must look towards long term plans to systematically transform all gravel roads into tar roads over time.
A proper and well-maintained roads infrastructure is the foundation of economic development, job creation and prosperity. MEC Mahlangu must take the necessary steps to ensure her department takes gravel road maintenance more seriously, opening doors of economic opportunity to the people of Mpumalanga.