South African app receives 46,693 potholes reports — 7,842 have been closed

The Department of Transport’s (DoT’s) Vala Zonke pothole repair initiative has closed just 7,842 of the 46,693 potholes reported on the app since it launched in August 2022.

However, transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga says this figure is likely higher as not all authorities report back to the Vala Zonke War Room or do so in the wrong format.

This is according to the minister’s response to parliamentary questions from Inkatha Freedom Party MP Khethamabala Petros Sithole.

This minister said the Vala Zonke Pothole Reporting app had accumulated 21,341 downloads since its launch on 8 August 2022.

“The public has reported 46,693 potholes to date using the public app,” said Chikunga.

“Of the public-reported potholes, 7,842 have been reported as closed to Vala Zonke War Room.”

Authorities are failing to report closures or reporting them in the incorrect format, so the minister says the Vala Zonke War Room is working to establish a mechanism to reconcile blacktop patching with pothole repairs.

Sithole also asked the minister about completed and planned skills development and training surrounding the initiative.

In November 2023, Chikunga revealed the number of square metres of potholes the initiative had filled during the first half of the 2023/24 financial year and the cost.

She revealed that the government had filled approximately 1.3 million square metres of potholes during the period, with KwaZulu-Natal receiving the most attention.

Costs to fix potholes range from R700 to R1,500 per square metre. The table below provides a breakdown of potholes repaired per province during the first half of the 2023/24 financial year.

Pothole repairs by province over the past six months
Province Potholes patched Total six-month budget expenditure
KwaZulu-Natal 500,000m2 R673,500,452
Limpopo 139,925m2 R551,826,653
Western Cape 46,052m2 R514,052,000
Northern Cape 23,676m2 R491,859,499
Eastern Cape 112,286m2 R472,776,761
Free State 20,000m2 R347,299,000
Mpumalanga 141,186m2 R272,084,082
North West 94,996m2 R265,741,551
Gauteng 213,321m2 R61,111,024

It should be noted that the six-month expenditure includes all road maintenance spending — not just money spent on repairing potholes.

The government filled roughly 500,000m2 of potholes in KwaZulu-Natal during the six months, at a cost of over R673 million.

Gauteng’s roads received the next-most attention from the government, with 213,321m2 of potholes filled, costing R61 million.

The Free State received the least attention from the government, with just 20,000m2 of potholes filled. However, this came at a cost of R347 million.

Regarding the costs associated with fixing potholes, Chikunga said no specific budget was allocated for this purpose and that the funds came from municipalities’ maintenance budgets.

“Provinces are allocated the maintenance budget as provided in the table above of which blacktop patching and pothole repairs form part of the 2022/23 financial year [budget],” she said.

“The total amount spent for the maintenance of the provincial roads through PRMG [Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant] over the six months is R3,650,251,022.”

“This budget covers the entire maintenance of provincial Strategic and Secondary roads networks inclusive of blacktop patching and pothole repairs,” Chikunga added.

The roads in several South African provinces have deteriorated to the point that some residents are taking repairs into their own hands.

However, according to the Johannesburg Roads Association (JRA), residents who attempt this are breaking the law.

In April 2023, the JRA warned residents that those repairing potholes themselves are violating city bylaws.

“We see this quite often, where people want to fix potholes themselves. As much as we want to appreciate them for doing that, there is a bylaw that prevents people from doing so,” said Louis Nel, acting CEO at the JRA.

“We’ve got certain standards that we work to at the JRA. So, there is a certain way that we repair these potholes so that they do not re-occur.”

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South African app receives 46,693 potholes reports — 7,842 have been closed