Disaster on the roads
The Eiland Road (R529) is so riddled with potholes that farmers and residents of that area no longer drive on it. Here you can see a bakkie driving on the gravel shoulder of the road while another vehicle overtakes a truck in the distance. Photo: Joe Dreyer

The R528 that connects Tzaneen and Haenertsburg through Georges Valley, is another blinding example of the failings of an organization appointed by a provincial department to manage its infrastructure. The Roads Agency Limpopo (RAL) is contracted by the Department of Public Works in Limpopo to manage the roads infrastructure throughout the province. RAL receives an annual budget from the provincial department to allow them to fulfill their duties as per their mandate.

It would appear however, that RAL is failing dismally in its efforts. The proof is in the Georges Valley, Eiland, and Deerpark Roads-pudding. On Wednesday this week, Bulletin’s editor took a drive up to Haenertsburg from Tzaneen along the R528 through Georges Valley. At the top, he made a U-turn and drove back down the same route. The purpose of this trip was to count the potholes along the 38 kilometre stretch of road. By the time he arrived back in Tzaneen his tally was at 234 potholes (and he may have missed a few as he swerved to avoid the sedan-sized holes in his lane, and the vehicles approaching from the opposite direction also swerving to avoid the massive craters).

Disaster on the roads 002
A portion of the R528 road through Georges Valley. Photo: Joe Dreyer

Following his harrowing trip up and down the mountain, he traveled to the Eiland Road just a few kilometers from Letsitele town. It is along this route that some of the biggest farmers in the Southern hemisphere produce valuable exports. Also situated on this route is the very popular ATKV Eiland Spa and Resort which attracts thousands of visitors right through the year.

The Eiland Road is so decayed that farmers who live and work along it, choose to travel on the gravel next to it, rather than on the road itself, in order to preserve their vehicles. Visitors to the Eiland resort have reported damaged tyres and rims in the past and even locals have said that they have lost count of the number of tyres and shocks repairs they have had to undergo on their fleet in the past few years.

Counting the potholes on this road would be futile as there is only one pothole there – the entire road. Not only does this pose a very serious danger to the lives of the motorists who have to travel along it for business, but it creates a deterrent to visitors. At night, or during heavy rains, the potholes are impossible to see, which creates other safety concerns such as police and emergency services response times in cases of emergency.

Disaster Road 003
Another terrible section of road just as you enter a blind corner in the direction of Haenertsburg from Tzaneen on the R528 through Georges Valley.

In an attempt to gain a bit more insight into the matter, we attempted to contact RAL spokesperson, Maropeng Manyathela. His phone remained unanswered even after numerous attempts over the course of three days. We sent him WhatsApp message with an inquiry on the state of the roads. We are still awaiting his response, despite the message indicating that it has been delivered and read.

Next, we contacted the spokesperson for the Limpopo Department of Public Works, Joel Seabi, who immediately approached the relevant departments within his organization, as well as that of RAL, for answers.

“In the current financial year which ends in March 2021, there are no funds available to repair the R528. That road needs more than just a few patch jobs, that road needs a complete overhaul. There is just not enough money right now, but we will be allocating funds towards Georges Valley for the next fiscal year which starts in April 2021,” he said. “In the meantime we will be looking to a temporary solution that will include a team from our department doing temporary pothole plugging until the funds for a complete overhaul are made available.”

Disaster Roads 004
The Eiland Road is almost impassable. There are individuals employed along this section of road, who must navigate the gaping holes daily in small sedans.

We asked about the Eiland Road and Seabi said that he was not familiar with the area on the other side of Letsitele. “I must be honest and ask for some time for me to investigate and speak to the relevant parties so that I can provide you with some proper information. Now that you have explained the importance of that road to our local economy, I am going to try and escalate the Eiland Road as a matter of urgency.” Earlier in the week, Bulletin received a phone call from two distraught farmer along the Mieliekloof gravel road, who explained that the department’s grader had not been in their area to grade the road for a long time. This has caused the road to become almost as impassable as the roads mentioned above. At the time of going to print however, Seabi was unable to get any information from the roads department but has promised to revert in the days to come.

Bulletin requests our readers to send us your photographs along with a pin location of any potholes anywhere along the major routes between Mooketsi, Giyani, Tzaneen, Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit, so that we may compile a list to send to Public Works. Send your photos to joe@bulletin.us.com.