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FSA pushes for task teams to investigate roads challenges in the province

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“Frustration levels of farmers continue to rise as they don’t see any of the promised improvements in the rural roads that are steadily declining! This forces farmers to jump in and do basic repairs or pay blader operators themselves, just so that roads are drivable” says Francois Wilken, President of Free State Agriculture (FSA) out of grave concern for the increasing cost of doing business in the rural Free State.

FSA met with the HOD, Directors and District Roads Engineers from the Department of Community Safety, Roads & Transport on Friday 23 February 2024 where these and other concerns were raised and addressed.

 “We welcome the acknowledgement of certain critical problems with our rural roads and the appointment of specific ask teams to address these” says Gernie Botha, CEO of FSA. “We however also note with grave concern the huge backlog and very limited budget that the department has to fix our roads, acknowledging the progress with limited budget where such has been spent” says Botha. The following Task teams were called for by the HOD with an order to convene within the next month to come up with solutions; The Lesotho border road & Legalities of keeping heavy trucks off roads not designed for heavy traffic.

Dr Jack Armour, Commercial Manager at FSA stressed that much better communication and transparency in the budget, planning and procurement process is needed for the agricultural community to regain trust in the Dept. The HOD agreed and urged the director responsible for roads maintenance to share such planning, budgets and schedules with FSA on a regular basis. “Critical issues however are still not being addressed” said Armour out of concern to the HOD, namely:

  1. A concrete action plan to unblock drains and fix broken culvert pipes diverting water away from our roads is still not forthcoming. FSA has submitted such proposed plans.
  2. Procurement of grader operators and pick-and-shovel workers on the ground to do the basic maintenance work such as unblocking drains is still not forthcoming after many years of pointing out that this is these are main issue destroying our roads.
  3. The procurement process to speed up service delivery; especially where emergency repairs need to be done. FSA reported the Aberfeldy steel bridge to the dept over a year ago and tenders were published, shortlisted and then cancelled again and to date no work has been done on the bridge!
  4. Regarding the appointment of Consulting Engineers to oversee the work done by CDP (Contractor Development Programme) contractors and the use of EPWP workers to do basic road repairs, the HOD remained adamant that this was a political EXCO decision and couldn’t be easily changed. Furthermore, the HOD added that most of the current pothole repairs are being done though an MOU with the CUT and work is being supervised by qualified Engineering personnel.    

One bit of very good news was that the HOD indicated that there may be 6 new graders procured for the Department to use in the near future in the districts! Furthermore, that a new director has been appointed to turn the Yellow Fleet maintenance and repairs division around.