Durban – On the M37, a stretch of road from the edge of KwaMakhutha township to the R603 in Adams Mission, several men wake up at the crack of dawn each day to fill potholes with sand and soil for money.
They drag wheelbarrows and shovels to the middle of the road in the morning and evening traffic and beg passing motorists for whatever change they can spare for their work.
Sizwe, a tuckshop owner who drives in the area daily, says the men put themselves in danger just to earn peanuts. He believes they don’t contribute much as their work gets eroded as soon as the rains come.
“In the middle of winter, when it used to be pitch black in the morning, we had to drive very slowly because they would just stand on the road without any lights. It’s a death trap,“ he says.
According to the local, the area has been neglected by the government for years, with construction only having recently begun. When the April floods battered KwaZulu-Natal they made the road even worse, he said.
For taxi driver Mandla Khathi, the potholes have become a regular part of everyday life in the area. He says he has learnt to navigate this road in spite of them and was surprised that official repairs had begun.
“This is a poor area that is mostly populated by black people, so it is no wonder that the government left us to our devices for so long. I have been driving through here for many years now and know this road like the back of my hand. But, the potholes have a mind of their own and just pop up anywhere,” says Khathi.
KZN Transport MEC Peggy Nkonyeni launched a road repair project that is part of the national programme developed by the Department of Transport to address potholes with the hope of resulting in improved infrastructure and safer roads.
According to Nkonyeni, the programme was aimed at training and teaching young people minor repairs and road maintenance skills, including pothole patching, road marking, grass cutting, and related activities.
“We have heard complaints over potholes that people say damage their vehicles, potholes also cause accidents … a number of things cause potholes, such as ineffective stormwater drainage,” says Nkonyeni.
Grade 11 learner Zinhle does not see any value in the work being done by the men who fill potholes and says they are homeless druggies who want money for their next hit.
“I am glad that construction has begun and those tsotsis can go back to where they came from. I had to walk with friends to school because I was afraid of running into them.”