Being the capital city of the Northern Cape, it is fair to assume that Kimberley should be sparkling. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and there are many reasons for this. One of the most obvious, is the alarming size and frequency that one will experience potholes when driving through, pretty much, any part of town.
Simply put, potholes are extremely dangerous. Apart from damaging cars in many ways; wheel alignment, tyres and damage to rims, the more serious harm they can attribute to is to passengers, drivers and pedestrians. It is safe to say that majority of the roads in Kimberley are plagued with potholes yet there are no warning signs alerting motorists of the dangers that they might experience when embarking down those roads. A simple warning alerts the driver to be more careful, preventing the damage that could be caused when the motorist drives with the impression that there are no obstacles awaiting him.
When involved in an accident where the cause is a pothole, motorists are free to sue the state if they have any health implications or damage to the vehicle as a result of the pothole. The case of Catharina Loots is one such example. On the 10th of April 2011, Loots was involved in a car accident on the R31 between Hotazel and Kuruman. Loots was driving in the rain when the she hit a pothole causing her car to overturn. She was in hospital for three months and had to be rehabilitated in order to walk again. She frequents the hospital annually for operations relating to the accident. The incident resulted in Loots suing the Department of Road and Public Works.
Insurance premiums are higher in Kimberley because of the risks that motorists are exposed to when driving in the pothole filled roads. In his State of the Province address, Northern Cape Premier, Dr Zamani Saul expressed that tourism is an industry that needs to be tapped into as tourism has the potential of greatly growing the economy of the province. Boasting a coastline, flamingos, the Augrabies waterfall and canyon and the infamous ‘Big Hole’ as a few examples, he lamented on the fact that we have what it takes to attracts tourists, but with the alarming rate of potholes, we could actually be chasing them away, “How can we expect investors to invest in our province if we fail to take care of our roads?” Dr Saul questioned.
The potholes in Kimberley also affect our Emergency Medical Services as they have to drive slower to avoid hitting a pothole. The key role of emergency services is to get to the patients in need as soon as possible, stabilise them and get them to the hospital to avoid further damage or even fatality. Albert Hensberg, base manager for the ER24 in Kimberley stated, “The potholes are bad, it delays us and damages our ambulances resulting in us using more money to fix them than to actually use them for the intent and purposes that they are there for”.
When questioned about why the potholes are as bad as they are and the plan for fixing the city’s roads, spokesperson for the Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie said “Potholes are mostly caused by natural weathering. This coupled with the gradual wear and tear of the roads is what leads to potholes. Annually the municipality budgets for road resealing and patching of roads”.
David Maupi Letsoalo, CEO of Oarona Consulting Engineering explained what needs to happen from a professional perspective, “Fixing potholes includes cutting the affected area with an electric saw and replacing the road layer with material such as G1, G2 and C4. The material needs to be compacted to 95% MOD AASHTO, the affected area needs to be primed before placing Asphalt. Replacing 30mm to 50mm Asphalt comes later as well as the compacting with a roller or walking behind the machine”.
It is to be expected that the fixing of potholes can be costly endeavour, especially because there are so many of them, but with the urgency that the pothole situation finds itself in, it is also to be expected that something gets done about them as soon as possible. Daphne Johnson, a resident from Riviera feels that the pothole dilemma is not being taken seriously enough, “This is not a secret anymore. The situation is bad; it is really bad. It is so obvious and in our faces. The people who have the ability to fix these roads also drive on them, so it is confusing that they don’t see the urgency? It’s like we are turning a blind eye to this very obvious and in-our-face problem. I just don’t get it”.
The roads of Kimberley need to be smoothened up quickly and it is clear that the municipality has a long road ahead of them.