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HomeNEWSMount Fletcher tarred road peeled off within three months

Mount Fletcher tarred road peeled off within three months

When it rains, cars cannot drive on the dirt road of Hlankomo, Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape. Buses that ferry villagers to town and back are unable to enter the village, as the road is impassable.

In 2009, 2010 and 2011, three construction companies came to the village to build a tarred road, but within three months of its construction, the tar had started to peel off.

City Press recently visited the village, where residents said they felt let down and had lost all hope of ever having a decent road.

Acting Chief Phumzile Xoza said the first construction company had arrived in 2009, done earthworks on the road and left.Mount FletcherVillagers say structural defects on the road started showing a few months after it was constructedFletcherLocals say the tar on this road lasted for about three months before it started peeling off. Photo: Bongekile Macuperiddled potholeThe riddled pothole tar road is what is left of what was once a tarred road in Mdeni village, Mount Fletcher. Villagers said structural defects on the road started showing three months after it was constructed. Photo: Bongekile MacupeMount FletcherVillagers say structural defects on the road started showing a few months after it was constructedFletcherLocals say the tar on this road lasted for about three months before it started peeling off. Photo: Bongekile Macupe

The following year – when Xoza was the community liaison officer – the second company arrived and began the construction of the road, which was supposed to be a 12km stretch of tarmac, starting at Mdeni and covering the villages of No 5, Mcambalala and Sigoga.

However, the tarred road ended up being just 8km long, from Mdeni to Mhlontlo Secondary School in No 5 village.

Villagers told City Press that, just three months after the road had been constructed, they started noticing structural defects. There were cracks and the tar began peeling away.

 One village elder said: We were pleased that we finally had a road, but our excitement was short-lived. That thing didn’t last long. Kwakuzotyiwa nje imali [It was just a money-making scheme]. It’s really unfortunate.

“I don’t know much about road construction, but even I can tell you that we were scammed,” said another villager.

“They poured something that looked like black paint on top of the dirt and they called that a tarred road. As soon as they left, the stuff started coming off. What do you call that?”

In 2011, a new contractor arrived, supposedly to reconstruct the tarred road. However, the company removed only 2km of what remained of the tar before leaving, never to be seen again.

“Saqhathwa, abukho obububhanxa senzelwa bona. Bafika bathi shwele shwele bahamba nesithonga eso basibhatalwayo sabe thina singenandlela [We were robbed. What happened here was nonsense. They did a shoddy job, took the millions that they were paid and left us without a tarred road],” said another local, Nolungile Madinga.

She added that the villagers felt neglected.

“We vote all the time, but we don’t get any services here. My identity document is almost full of voting stamps, but I have nothing to show for it. Yintlungu into yethu. [It’s painful that we must endure this].

“When it rains, we can’t go anywhere because the road’s bad and the bridge gets flooded, so cars cannot drive over it or they’ll be swept away,” she said.

The only signs that No 5 village ever had a tarred road are the few patches of tar that remain. What’s left of the tarred road in Mdeni is riddled with potholes, exposing the dirt road underneath.

Xoza said that over the years, he had tried unsuccessfully to trace the last contractor that was meant to reconstruct the road.

Former ward 16 councillor Lilly Thwethiso told City Press that, when she had been elected in 2011, the third contractor was removing what was left of the tar and was supposed to have started with the road’s reconstruction.

However, the company left without finishing the work and never returned.

The road, she said, which is known as DR08083, was an access road and, even though the villages fell under the Elundini Local Municipality, it was the responsibility of the Joe Gqabi District Municipality to ensure the road remained passable.

Thwethiso, who stepped down after the recent local government elections said: Whenever I attended the road forum meetings [of the district municipality], I’d raise the issue of that road and, every time, I’d be told that my concerns had been noted and would be followed up – but nothing was ever done.

Three weeks ago, City Press sent questions to the Joe Gqabi District Municipality about the state of DR08083 and the shoddy work done by the three contractors. However, even after several follow-ups, no response had been received by the time of going to print.

City Press also showed photographs of the road to an Eastern Cape-based civil engineer with 15 years of experience in road construction (including with a municipality), who said he was not surprised that the tarred road had “crumbled” within a few months of being built.

He said he could deduce from the photographs that the road had suffered distress, primarily because the wrong material had been used to construct it. In addition, he said the layer that had been used on top was the one that was supposed to serve as a foundation.

“This road has experienced two of the four flexible pavement distresses,” said the engineer.

“It suffered a surfacing distress that resulted in the surface forming cracks, which could cause loss of integrity and water ingress into the base.

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“Pavement structural distress was caused, either by traffic loads overstressing the pavement layers, or environmental, subgrade [road foundation] and heavy construction loads that weren’t accommodated in the design. This also caused cracking of the layers,” he said.

He added that an investigation by a geotechnical engineer into what had caused the road to deteriorate so quickly would yield a conclusive finding.

The civil engineer said that in 2011, new roads and major repairs of existing ones had cost about R3.5 million per kilometre for a lightly trafficked, paved rural road like DR08083.

He estimated that the cost of constructing 8km of the road would have been R28 million.




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