MEC Fufe Makatong briefed the media regarding the closure of the R31 provincial road between Koopmansfontein and Middelpos.
THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Roads and Public Works (DRPW) has temporarily closed a flooded section of the R31 road, between Koopmansfontein and Middelpos, in order to fill the major potholes with gravel as an interim measure to allow traffic to pass safely.
The MEC for Roads and Public Works, Fufe Makatong, said on Tuesday that they are still waiting for the flooding to subside in order to start repairs on the affected road.
According to her, a visual assessment suggests that the ‘upstream’ lane was swept away, but the ‘downstream’ lane currently allows traffic to pass through.
“Our findings suggest that there are life-threatening potholes on this road with some of them being as deep as one metre. Hence a stop-and-go traffic control system is currently utilised to allow the flow of traffic despite the damaged section. Both traffic streams are relayed on one lane, which will give rise to a delay in travelling time,” said Makatong.
The department did not specify how long the road would be closed or how long the repairs will take.
According to Makatong, the long queue of vehicles, consisting mostly of trucks, at the affected section of the road was only cleared at 10pm on Monday night.
Apparently, there are some truck drivers who refused to use the detour routes and insisted on driving on the dangerous road section.
Some of the drivers feared that the detour roads would cause more damage to their vehicles due to their poor condition.
Makatong, however, assured the public that grading maintenance and surfacing will be done on the detour gravel roads.
She highlighted that the R31 is one of the most crucial economic routes in the Province due to its significant impact on the transportation of mining products.
“The Northern Cape Province is the epicentre of South Africa’s manganese mining activities, with both large and small mining entities either operating or building mines in the territory. Manganese and iron ore account for the bulk of the revenue earnings, thus making it a significant contributor to the growth of the Province.
“For this reason, it is crucial that the Department of Roads and Public Works effectively maintains the road network in the Province, however, in the context of limited funds, the department has to make use of innovative methods.
“The transportation of goods on the R31 road contributes to the GDP and development of this rural province. The John Taolo Gaetsewe District witnessed an increase in mining activity, which invariably means an increase in heavy haulage on the roads, especially along the ‘Manganese Corridor’.
“To maintain these roads, the Department of Roads and Public Works (DRPW) spends over R600 million over a medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF).
“With the current and increasing volumes of traffic along the corridor, the department is repeatedly repairing and resealing the roads, under the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant (PRMG).”
Makatong admitted that the resealing and repair work will not strengthen the foundations of the road, which has been compromised by the weight of the haulage over the past five years.
She said there were already maintenance plans in the 2022/23 budget for repairs on the R31 road before the flooding disaster struck.
According to her, the Province was in the process of relinquishing the R31 to the SA National Roads Agency.
Video: Danie van der Lith
Meanwhile, the department has issued a warning on its Facebook page for all road users to adhere to the road closures and to use the alternative recommended roads.
“Any person ignoring the above warning will be doing so at their own risk. The DRPW will not be held liable for any damages or loss of property or life,” read the notice.
Alternative Routes for the closed section of the R31: