road maintenance

In South Africa, our road quality has been steadily deteriorating over the past decade. Poor road maintenance that results in potholes and other road surface defects contributes to road accidents, as well as damage to vehicles.

According to UCT’s School of Economics, South Africa is facing a national backlog of over 420 billion rand in road maintenance.

Below we cover:

Just how bad the potholes are getting in South Africa

Speaking at a road construction indaba, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula admitted that approximately 80% of our country’s national roads have reached the end of their design life. About 40% of provincial roads have also passed their planned, 20-year lifespan.

Some potholes are so large that they’ve swallowed vehicles completely.

In 2022, a motorist had to be rescued after driving into a massive pothole – previously reported by local road users on a number of occasions – in Greymont, Johannesburg.

Also in 2022, notorious potholes on a KZN road were blamed for the burst tyre that led to a serious road accident involving KZN MEC for Transport, Neliswa Peggy Nkonyeni.

In August 2022, Fikile Mbalula announced the launch of a new app that the public can use to report potholes, to facilitate faster repairs. The SANRAL Pothole app – part of a campaign named “Operation Vala Zonke” – is available for download from the Google Play store and iOS App Store.

What is causing road deterioration in South Africa

The neglect of both tarred and gravel roads across South Africa has led to a backlog that is making it near impossible for local municipalities to get back on track.


The R76 between Viljoenskroon and Steynsrus in the Free State. Photo credit: News24

Wear and tear on roads from constant use is normal. When road maintenance falls behind schedule, however, it can lead to reoccurring potholes, cracks and poor road surfaces.

Along with a maintenance backlog, a steady increase in the number of vehicles is adding to the stress on South African roads.

Consequences of poor road maintenance

Failure to maintain roads, leading to compromised road surfaces, can cause road accidents.

Large potholes can cause people to drive on the wrong side of the road, lose control of their vehicles or swerve suddenly.

Slippery surfaces and loose gravel can also cause cars to skid, especially during panic braking.

Poor road maintenance can also cause significant damage to vehicles. Uneven surfaces and potholes can dent wheel rims and can cause undue wear to suspension, alignment, tyres and shocks.

Prolonged driving on uneven surfaces can also lead to fluid leaks from the engine.

Claims in the event of injury caused by bad roads

If you are injured in an accident or your car is damaged as a direct result of poor road maintenance, you may be able to claim damages from the authority responsible for the road’s upkeep.

This applies especially if proof of negligence can be supplied. An example is if defective road conditions, like potholes, were previously reported to authorities but not fixed.

In the case of national roads, claims may be made against the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral).

For damages sustained on municipal roads, the relevant local municipality or department of public works may be liable.

If you’re physically injured in a road accident you weren’t solely responsible for causing, you may also qualify for compensation from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

Depending on the circumstances of a case, the RAF may pay compensation for:

  • past and future medical expenses
  • loss of income
  • loss of support, if a family breadwinner dies in a road accident
  • general pain and suffering, in the case of serious injuries.

What to do to support a claim if you’re injured due to badly maintained roads

Contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident occurs.

Record details of the incident, if possible including photos of the accident, damage to vehicles and the road surface.

It’s important to document the road conditions that caused the accident.

Also record the names and contact details of any witnesses that can corroborate the details of the accident and attest to the fact that it was caused by poor road maintenance.


Personal injury and RAF claims with DSC Attorneys

At DSC Attorneys, we have extensive experience in handling road accident claims.

Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.

We also work on a no win, no fee basis. Contact us to discuss your claim or to book an appointment.

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