UniMedia applauds Mayor Mashaba’s declaration of war on potholes

All Press and media were invited by the City of Johannesburg’s mayor, Herman Mashaba and transport MMC Nonhlanhla Makhuba to its declaration on war on potholes and its prioritization to the repair of failing road services. UniMedia attended this ground breaking event.

Mayor Herman Mashaba pointed out that the city needs a transport network which functions efficiently in order to enjoy a thriving economy. The mayor said R60 million would go towards materials and equipment, while the remaining R28 million would be used to address staff shortages. He added: “As part of this exercise, a city-wide inspection will be carried out in accordance with the use of JRA’s Visual Condition Index (VCI) criteria, every two years, to enable the scientific prioritization of roads for reconstruction and resurfacing.”

“Through JRA’s integrated citizen communications channels, 37 450 potholes were reported between April 2015 and February 2017, of which 32 740 have been resolved. This indicates an 87.4 percent resolution rate.” he said.

The saying: “every challenge creates opportunity”, is UniMedia’s perspective of a situation both the city and the rest of South Africa’s municipalities currently and continuously face. With the quantum and frequency of rain in most of South Africa, it has resulted in creating chaos on national and municipality road infrastructure. The mayor’s initiative is a  ‘tip of the ice berg’ of the true reflection facing road dilapidation and severity of the challenges facing pothole repairs and road rehabilitation.

The government cannot afford to completely rebuild these roads in its entirety. The life span of the roads should last 10 – 25 years depending on the volume of traffic both at commercial and individual vehicle level.

The fixing of potholes and road rehabilitation is not only a matter of ‘throwing the tar into the hole, flattening it and carrying on’. This is an absolute waste of expenditure and resources. There are a number of factors contributing to the maintenance of our roads, as all roads are veins and arteries feeding into and out of the cities and metropolitans.

The other factor is the time of service delivery, which is essential to keep the economic wheel turning at a profitable rate. Our economic momentum hangs in the balance when municipality treats fixing potholes as a favour to the public when it is the public’s prerogative that the municipality, JRA and SANRAL should be repairing potholes regularly. Government needs to work together with the private sectors and to determine the best practice for road rehabilitation effectively as a long term solution.

It is a known fact that the statistics and service on road repairs are not necessarily received with broad smiles by the road insurance industry. Yet, there are ways to fast track a workable solution through the use of technology apps that can flag within hours where serious road repairs are required. This solution involves the public directly.

Surely, it is common knowledge, that the lack of road infrastructure repairs and responsibilities to address pothole repairs creates false and one way business opportunities that involves and benefits tyre suppliers, accident and windscreen repair industries to name a few. This vicious business cycle is there to benefit the above and to the detriment of the amount of claims made against the insurance companies, which inherently means the increase of premiums back to the public.

As tax payers, the public are at the short end of this vicious cycle and suffer the stress as the result of the state of the roads. Furthermore, added to this stress is the time in submitting the claim  hoping the insurance company will approve it  and notifying the individual of ‘the excess to be paid by them’.

Can the public be so naïve, whilst slapped so many times in this vicious cycle? The individual paying their taxes, paying for road licenses and insurances and repairs and services to their vehicles, the question  begs ‘where is the individual citizen looked after by the public officials in their relevant position in the value chain to ensure that the roads are built and maintained?’

Hence we applaud the mayor for declaring war against potholes.

UniMedia believes a positive way forward is to engage stakeholders, including the private sector, government and the insurance sector to look collectively, to address the challenges of pothole repairs and road rehabilitation programmes and to furthermore ensure that these solutions have direct impact towards insuring that SA roads are safe for all users.

UniMedia directs the public’s attention on the ‘wheel effect’ of the Pothole issues South Africa is threatened by:

  1. Insurance Industry involvement and leverage a co-founding model between government and private sectors
  2. Planning of the “Pre-Rain” season, mapping of current state of potholes through technology apps and possible drone technology
  3. Active monitoring and reporting “on mobile applications”
  4. The longevity cannot be base on short term pothole fixing to last until the next rain fall. Based on the quantum and frequency of recent rain falls over the last several months, ‘the definition of short term’ should ensure that these repairs  last at least 1 – 5 years.
  5. Government needs to look at medium to long term solutions,research, establish and engage with current private sector best practice solutions, “New” versus “Old” techniques, Manual versus Mechanical deployment and Job protection versus Efficiencies
  6. Mobile Applications, hand in hand with the IT solutions should   create statistics recording data such as number of potholes reported by severity, number of accidents reported, windscreen damage reported, insurance claims reported and approved, number of injuries, response time to logged calls etc.
  7. The awarding of the tenders for road building, repairing of potholes and road rehabilitation processes should be transparent and accessible to the public. This will create true transparency and alleviate corrupt practices.

– The monitoring of penalties against contractors awarded tenders should be at the forefront of service delivery and monitoring prompt repairs there-of. Once again this should be in the public domain.

– All stake holders should understand  the quantum of impact on the economy during rainfall seasons and its effects on potholes and road deterioration. This should quantify into rands, the lost productive hours impact on industries and economic landscape.

Honourable Mayor and his team, UniMedia congratulates your initiative and your war against the potholes campaign, but this has to be a beacon of ownership at all levels by custodians responsible for our infrastructure to ensure economic sustainability and growth. The public cannot be simply battered  any longer. In today’s digital and technological era which includes: IT platforms, mobile apps, mapping and drone technology, it is imperative to embrace these tech tools to ensure seamless efficiency on all levels. It is high time the burden is taken off the citizen!

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