Potholes in South Africa: Transport Minister launches ‘Vala Zonke War Room’ to deal speedily with problems

The Vala Zonke war room will be the central hub where all pothole-related issues will be addressed and resolved was launched on Monday by Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga. Picture: Facebook

The Vala Zonke war room will be the central hub where all pothole-related issues will be addressed and resolved was launched on Monday by Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga. Picture: Facebook

Published Jul 31, 2023


Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga on Monday said the ‘Vala Zonke War Room’ will be used to monitor and manage all pothole repairs and eradication in the country.

“The establishment of this War Room is both a bold and honest attempt we are making to fix road transport challenges presented by the potholes we see,” Chikunga said.

In an ongoing effort to address the issue of pothole repairs in the country, the minister launched the Vala Zonke War Room and would be led by the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited’s (Sanral) at the Central Operations Centre (COC) in Centurion.

Chikunga described the challenge as enormous.

“It is a bold step on our part because of the enormity of the challenge and thus the vast coverage required for effective deployment of this resource.

“It is also a very honest acknowledgement of the fact that we can never truly attack this challenge without adequate and sufficient sight of the entire road network, including acting on reported challenges,” Chikunga said.

Chikunga said closing potholes before the road deteriorates further is a crucial intervention.

“It must serve as a flagship of what is possible through effective intergovernmental cooperation, especially with integrated planning and budgeting towards common goals,” she said.

Chikunga said while there have been bottlenecks in effectively rolling out this programme nationally, there continues to be robust discussions to ensure that our pothole repair programme is a success.

She said South African road authorities across the three spheres of government have been experiencing various challenges relating to the continuous deterioration in the condition of roads.

This includes a lack of resources for road maintenance, ageing infrastructure, inadequate funding and the lack of skills.

“As a department, we believe that targeted investments are needed to preserve mobility and accessibility of the travelling public and freight movements, because investment in maintaining, rehabilitating, upgrading and expanding infrastructure has not kept pace with growing needs of both society and the economy,” Chikunga said.

Chikunga said the department’s desired outcome is to reduce all transport-related incidents and accidents, “which will ultimately lead to a significant reduction in injuries and fatalities.

“It can also not be disputed that the declining condition of our road infrastructure reduces our economic competitiveness and the quality of life of our citizens,” she said.

Chikunga that the repair of road transport infrastructure must be a national priority.

“To ensure continued economic growth, and to preserve freedom of movement and quality of life.

“The very birth of this War Room remains a strong indication of the severity of the situation, especially expressed in the state of our road network and evidence of this is highlighted by worsening traffic congestions and dangerous driving conditions or other road uses in urban and peri-urban areas,” she said.

Looking back, the minister said “Operation Vala Zonke” was launched in August.

This entailed developing a centralised Mobile Pothole Reporting app that enables the public to report potholes wherever they encounter them on any road.

The plan envisaged to have a central platform using an automated system that would allocate a complaint, identify and resolve delays and provide feedback to the public using the App.

“Operation Vala Zonke is, therefore, an integrated and comprehensive plan that drives multiple interventions to ensure that the overall condition of roads is in a safe and drivable state,” Chikunga said.

“As government, we are confident that through this coordinated and seamless approach provided by this War Room, we will be able to tackle pothole challenges and make an important difference that our people can witness and experience,” she said.

Chikunga said the War Room, which already has appropriate infrastructure, technology and personnel, will ensure effective monitoring and coordination of intervention programmes for road operations, maintenance and other road-related activities.

“The basic principle of a War Room is to bring everyone responsible for carrying out the intervention by the Department of Transport, as directed by Cabinet, for the Road Maintenance, Refurbishment and National Pothole Programme, in one room where they can communicate easier and gather thoughts together,” she said.

The Vala Zonke war room will be the central hub where all pothole-related issues will be addressed and resolved.

“This will be done in real time as information flows into the centre and responded to expeditiously,” she said.

Chikunga said it was important to create a single portal for public.

“Because there are over 250 road authorities in the country, there is a need to create a single portal for the public to report potholes and for this system to automatically redirect the complaint to the correct roads authority down to the correct maintenance depot level and to have a monitoring, tracking and feedback system in place,” she said.

The department said a new pothole web app was launched which the public can use to report potholes in their vicinity.

“Images can be uploaded, details of the problem, as well as real-time location of the road where the issue is raised on an interactive map that will show the owners of the different roads, as well as get status updates on issues raised using a pothole ticketing system,” it said.

Both the app and the operations at the War Room will work in conjunction.

“Once information is received at the War Room, this information is then assigned to the relevant authority, depending on where the road is, and the maintenance depot responsible for that road attends to fixing the pothole,” it said.

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