Free State floods: roads infrastructure is crumbling

Vrystaat-vloede: padinfrastruktuur verkrummel

Free State Agriculture (FSA) has warned that the Free State province’s road infrastructure is in a dire state. FSA has directed an urgent letter to the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport
requesting urgent actions to repair roads for critical access.
This action comes as the recent flooding in the province has caused severe damage to Free State roads.

In recent years roads in the Free State have been very poorly maintained. The recent extreme downpours have resulted in many roads and bridges being washed away or rendered impassable.
This situation represents a breakdown in critical infrastructure required for continued economic activity in rural areas. Farmers will increasingly find it difficult to transport produce to markets. In
addition, the increased immobility is placing the lives and livelihoods of whole communities in danger. As an example, many poor people are not able to access medical care. Also, farm workers are finding it increasingly challenging to travel to and from work.

“Left unattended, farm dwellers such as pensioners and schoolchildren will not be able to access services (taxis have long since refused to drive on these roads) and clinics and ambulances will not
be able to access farms to deliver chronic medicine and transport critically ill patients. These are all infringements on basic human rights of our rural citizens,” said FSA President, Francois Wilken.

Wilken says farmers have already started to repair roads where critical, however we would need financial and material support to stave off further disaster. There is an urgent request for equipment
to me made available such as graders and TLB’s since the aged state yellow fleet is basically grounded due to poor maintenance. Furthermore, material such as bitumen/tar, concrete, culvert pipes and diesel for farmers’ equipment doing the repairs are needed.

According to Wilken, FSA is finalising an internal plan to try and improve the poor state of roads. If road infrastructure is left unattended FSA members will be forced to action to repair roads where access is critical. As an immediate step FSA is consulting legal and other experts on what citizens and other entities can do to start repairing roads.

In March 2019, following floods near Rouxville in Mohokare, it took three months to get the local council to declare a local disaster to unlock funding from the roads department to repair impassable
roads. Currently, nearly two years later and with a disaster declaration, these roads are still not properly repaired. With massive downpours the little gravel left on the roads would wash away
making the roads a life- threatening hazard for travellers and even more expensive to repair. Hence, FSA appeals to political heads to speed up the disaster declaration process and unlocking of
resources to assist our rural dwellers.

Vrystaat Landbou (VL) het gewaarsku dat die Vrystaatse provinsie se padinfrastruktuur in ‘n ernstige toestand is. VL het ‘n dringende brief aan die Vrystaatse departement van polisie, paaie en vervoer
gerig en gevra dat dringende stappe gedoen word om paaie vir kritieke toegang te herstel.

Dié optrede kom omdat die onlangse oorstromings in die provinsie ernstige skade aan Vrystaatse paaie aangerig het.

Die afgelope paar jaar is paaie in die Vrystaat baie swak in stand gehou. Die onlangse erge reëns het daartoe gelei dat baie paaie en brûe weggespoel of onbegaanbaar geword het. Hierdie situasie is tekenend van ‘n ineenstorting in kritieke infrastruktuur wat nodig is vir voortgesette ekonomiese aktiwiteit in landelike gebiede. Boere sal dit toenemend moeilik vind om produkte na markte te vervoer. Daarbenewens plaas die verhoogde stremming van beweeglikheid die lewens en lewensbestaan van hele gemeenskappe in gevaar. Byvoorbeeld, baie arm mense het nie toegang tot mediese sorg nie. Plaaswerkers vind dit ook toenemend uitdagend om na en van hulle werk te reis.

“Indien die situasie nie hanteer word nie, sal plaasbewoners soos pensioenarisse en skoolkinders nie toegang tot dienste kan kry nie (taxi’s het lankal geweier om op hierdie paaie te ry) en klinieke en
ambulanse sal nie toegang tot plase kan kry om chroniese medisyne af te lewer en kritieke siek pasiënte te vervoer nie. Dit maak alles inbreuk op die basiese menseregte van ons landelike burgers,” het VL-president, Francois Wilken, gesê.

Wilken sê boere het reeds begin om paaie van kritieke belang te herstel, maar ons sal finansiële en materiële ondersteuning nodig hê om verdere rampspoed af te weer. Daar is ‘n dringende versoek
vir die beskikbaarstelling van toerusting soos padskrapers en TLB’s aangesien die staat se verouderde geel vloot basies buite werking weens swak instandhouding is. Verder is materiaal soos bitumen/teer, beton, duikerpype en diesel vir boere se toerusting wat die herstelwerk doen, nodig.

Volgens Wilken finaliseer VL ‘n interne plan om die swak toestand van paaie te probeer verbeter. As daar nie aandag aan padinfrastruktuur gegee word nie, sal VL-lede gedwing word om paaie te herstel waar toegang van kritieke belang is. As ‘n onmiddellike stap raadpleeg VL regs- en ander kundiges oor wat burgers en ander entiteite kan doen om paaie te begin herstel.

In Maart 2019, na die vloede naby Rouxville in Mohokare, het dit drie maande geneem om die plaaslike raad sover te kry om ‘n plaaslike noodtoestand te verklaar om sodoende befondsing van die paaie-departement beskikbaar te stel om onbegaanbare paaie te herstel. Tans, byna twee jaar later en met die verklaring van ‘n noodtoestand, is hierdie paaie steeds nie behoorlik herstel nie. Met swaar reënbuie sal die bietjie gruis wat op die paaie oorbly, wegspoel en die paaie lewensgevaarlik vir reisigers maak en sal dit selfs duurder word om hierdie paaie te herstel. Om hierdie rede doen VL ’n beroep op politieke hoofde om die afkondiging van ‘n noodtoestand te
bespoedig en hulpbronne beskikbaar te stel om ons landelike bewoners by te staan.