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‘We have learned to live with it’

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“We cannot be angry anymore, we are just totally disappointed in Sol Plaatje Municipality . . . we are promised the world before elections, but after we vote we are still left with the same sh*t every day . . . they will get nothing from me next time.”

Potholes are covering a large section of Kenilworth Road, making it very difficult to cross. Pictures: Danie van der Lith

“WE CANNOT be angry anymore, we are just totally disappointed in Sol Plaatje Municipality . . . we are promised the world before elections, but after we vote we are still left with the same sh*t every day . . . they will get nothing from me next time.”

These are some of the comments that I heard from business owners and workers in the Kenilworth area when I was visiting the important industrial area during the week.

And to be honest, when looking at the roads in the area, one can understand why the people are angry and disappointed. A large section of Kenilworth Road is pockmarked with potholes filled with water. There’s also a large pool of water under the bridge.

According to Johan Bosch, someone who needs to use the road, driving under that bridge is a guessing game. “You take the gamble to drive there with your car, because you cannot see what lies beneath the water, you look at what other drivers do and follow them,” he said.

One employee who did not want to be named said that she stays close by in Moghul Park. “I drive a small car, I cannot take the chance to pass under the bridge, so now I am forced to take the long way around via the N12, costing me extra in fuel every month.”

While taking photos of vehicles manoeuvring their way through what looks like a road in a war zone, one driver stopped next to me and asked if there is not one competent person at Sol Plaatje Municipality capable enough to fix this problem. You want to tell me that nobody there can fix this,” he asked.

After spending about 30 minutes in the area and speaking to some of the people who work there and who own businesses in the area, it became clear that they feel as if they have been forgotten and left to fend for themselves. I sensed a feeling of utter disappointment.

I spoke to Jannie Van Zyl, director of Yonder, which is a skills development centre for adult people with an intellectual disability. The Jannie Brink School for learners with special needs is on the same premises. Van Zyl made it clear that things are also difficult on their side due to the condition of the road.

“For the past three years our vehicles have not used that road under the bridge, we just cannot take that chance,” Van Zyl said. “Our vehicles have lost so many tyres over the years and it is costing us a lot of money,” he added. “We have also noticed that the water is damaging parts under our vehicles.”

According to Van Zyl, they have 180 special needs learners that they transport to school every day. “We have 15 vehicles that each need to take a 20 kilometre detour each via the N12 every single day. If you take into consideration what (mileage) our vehicles give us per litre of petrol and the cost of petrol, you can do the maths.”

He estimated that it costs them around R3 000 a day and R59 000 a month extra, just because they cannot use the road under the bridge.

But it was not only that money was being taken out of their pocket because of the damaged road; they were also not seeing much money come in. “We have also seen a big decline in visitors to our nursery and deli due to the condition of the road,” he said.

Van Zyl mentioned that in the past over weekends they used to have lots of people visiting and children would ride in the streets with their bicycles while the parents were at the nursery or deli, but those visits have declined sharply.

After I had spoken to him, he said something that seemed to sum up their own as well as the entire city’s situation. “We have learned to live with it.”

But the Kenilworth bridge is not the only underpass prone to issues. Both railway underpasses – the one in Hull Street and Beaconsfield’s Central Road underpass – have been a constant problem due to flooding; and this even when it does not rain.

Several vehicles have tried crossing through the flooded subways, but every so often the cars end up floating in need of rescue.

The road under the Beaconsfield subway is in a bad condition with several massive potholes covering both sides of the road.

A very angry Annette van Vuuren was visibly not happy. “We pay our rates and tax every month, but look at this, just look at this! This is what we get, it is really not fair,” she said.

As I watched, motorists had to slowly make their way through the pothole-ridden road to reach their destinations. Van Vuuren also mentioned that when the subway is flooded, you have to take the back road that leads to the SPCA entrance at the Cassandra bridge, making it an inconvenience to motorists as well as affecting businesses in that area.

Sol Plaatje Municipal spokesperson Thoko Riet said that underground water is a major contributing source. “We are currently busy inspecting the areas (subways) for any other visible leakages and burst pipes. We still caution motorists to drive carefully when crossing those areas”.

According to Riet, the team was out to assess the problem and found that there was a water pipe that was damaged by the artisanal miners but the underground water is playing a huge role. “The Municipality will send out the team to fix the burst pipe and once the water has subsided we will look at how best we can assist Yonder in preparation for the upcoming Harts Fees in August”, said Riet.

Potholes at the subway on Central Road are causing major problems to motorists who use the road daily.
Potholes at the subway on Central Road are causing major problems to motorists who use the road daily.
Potholes are covering a large section of Kenilworth Road, making it very difficult to cross. Pictures: Danie van der Lith
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