By Lelethu Zono and Ntombentsha Yamiso
With almost every street in Makhanda riddled with potholes for drivers and other road users, every turn adds to the fury. Moreover, the poor Makhanda roads have made driving a very costly and potentially dangerous experience for road users.
According to the local Uncedo Taxi Association Marshall, Sandie Netyisi, Makana municipality had agreed and committed to short and long-term plans to fix the roads. “The short-term plan was to temporarily fill the potholes since there weren’t enough funds to fix the road, and the long-term plan was to dig up and pave the streets when funds were available, but neither plan was executed. The municipality must fix the roads and not abuse us like this,” says Netyisi.
He mentioned that due to the current state of the roads, their vehicles must be fixed regularly while gradually improving car tyres, indicators and wheel alignments. He fears that one day, taxis will cause road accidents because drivers are often forced to drive on the right lanes, interfering with oncoming traffic. Roads such as this have been causing damage to private and public-service vehicles, blocking access to some areas and worsening damage. “It has been a long time since we have been crying, hoping that the municipality would hear us this time. The poor roads are also affecting the conditions of our cars, and in the end, our vehicles are damaged and not roadworthy,” says taxi driver Mzukisi Notshoba.
Resident and taxi commuter Phunyezwa Kitsili says only the N2 freeway is up to standard and that all other roads are in bad condition and neglected. “The municipality should urgently fix the roads and use their allocated funds properly,” says Kitsili. Another frustrated resident and driver, Kevin Smarts of Extension 9, says that because a majority of municipal officials trail from places outside of Makhanda, they are not invested in local development. “This is all negligence because most of the municipal officials do not even reside in Makhanda, and the only roads that are of importance to them are those in the CBD. They don’t care about our roads; they just fill up the holes, and when it rains, the potholes return to their normal state,” says Smarts.
In a recent Stakeholder Engagement Meeting on Water and Roads, Status Update held on 09 June 2023 at the Noluthando Hall in Joza, Makana Municipality committed current rehabilitation underway in M and Albert Streets, which are part of a main transport route in Makhanda. Phase 1 in the Ncame Road construction was announced as finished, while phase 2 is currently underway. While a consultant has been working to resuscitate the project, according to the municipality, a main contractor will be appointed in June (this month). It was also announced that the upgrading of the Makana Way Phase 1 is in its planning stage, and its contractor is to be appointed in August 2023.
However, not everyone is delighted by these priorities. Most of the population in Makhanda East relies solely on public transport to commute between the township and the Central Business District, places of work, and study. One of the critical taxi routes bridging the township and the CBD is the route via Mary Waters through Vergenoeg, Zolani, Phamamani and Phumlani, and it is in an appalling condition and with nearby water bursts flooding the streets regularly; the conditions continue to worsen. Potholes have extended to sizes of over 5 metres long, leaving very little to no road to use. Uncedo Taxi Association pleads with the local municipality to prioritize this route, saying it is the shortest route linking the township and town.
With disappointments, lack of hope and promises in one pot, an ongoing monitoring process is necessary, says the Makhanda Action for Accountability (A4A) project at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM). The A4A, through its Civic Actors located in various areas in Makhanda, has committed itself to be the eyes on the ground, monitoring the municipality’s commitments and engaging the municipality on the changes that benefit the community. This community-led stance hopes to influence the broader Makhanda community to monitor and report based on commitments made to develop local roads. This follows the A4A’s submission to Municipal Manager, Phumelelo Kate, to prioritize the development and maintenance of the route via Mary Waters High School in May. In the submission, the A4A also recommends the selling or processing old, rusted and unused big skid bins to assist in funding the fixing of municipal roads. The A4A collective is conducting follow-up communication with the Makana municipality on submissions and recommendations lodged.
Lelethu Zono and Ntombentsha Yamiso are CivActs members and Media Fellows in the Makhanda Action for Accountability (A4A) project at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM).