Farmers take roads into their own hands

 

FED up with waiting on the provincial government, farmers belonging to the Eastern Border Farmers Association will have spent R54 470 out of their own pockets repairing the main road running through Shaw Park when repairs are complete.

The road, which runs from the coastal R72 near the Fish River lighthouse to the R67 outside of Bathurst heading towards Grahamstown, is roughly 30km long and in a bad state.

Farm roads as well as other issues were raised in a recent Eastern Border Farmers Association meeting held at the Shaw Park Country Club.

In the discussion that took place, it became evident that the provincial roads department has so far not reacted to any of the farmers’ pleas to repair the severely damaged roads in the farm areas.

According to correspondence, the Makana and Ndlambe municipalities have put their tenders out for the year, so no work should be expected before April. Up until then farmers bear the brunt of dilapidated roads.

In December, farmers took matter into their own hands and hired water tankers from East London for wetting the road. The road also needed to be graded and Viv Dell saw to that with costs amounting to R26 470. This was funded by farmers living along this road with each farmer putting in R500 and each truck owner paying R1 500.

Since then potholes have continued to be a serious problem, causing damage to vehicles and putting road users at risk. Since the only lasting solution is to fill them in, pineapple farmer Jonathan Bradfield took it upon himself to have his truck and four labourers “fill in” the potholes from Shaw Park to the R72 junction.

“This took five days and I borrowed a TLB from a local farmer to load the gravel,” said Bradfield. The total cost of this operation was R11 000.

Bradfield is currently busy filling potholes on the stretch between Shaw Park and the R67, which will take five days at a total cost of R17 000.

“The other roads in the district are equally bad and in desperate need of repair,” said Bradfield. “I don’t know the way forward.”

Chairman Coert Herbst thanked all those who contributed to the grading and watering of the roads.

DA councillor Raymond Schenk said that it would be optimistic to think money would be allocated to fix the roads by April. “Expect July,” said Schenk.

Bradfield said that the roads forum had not had a meeting since October last year and the appointed contractors say it is pointless having a meeting as there is nothing to discuss. The contractors have stopped all road works as they had not been paid for the last five months’ work.

No machinery from the department has worked on the roads since November, and the new road tenders is estimated to only start in May.

“So it could easily be six or seven months of zero government funding and machinery input,” said Bradfield. “This is simply not acceptable.”

An old issue which reared its head at the meeting was the Kap River Bridge which washed away during the 2012 floods. This bridge and the surrounding road was used on a daily basis by pineapple farmers who have been forced to redirect to alternative roads that have been constructed adjacent to the collapsed bridge.

ANC councillor MK Raco announced that the proper environmental impact assessment was finally concluded after five years. Comments from the floor arose stating that the initial tender that was granted to repair the bridge didn’t do the EIA correctly.

“So we are at the beginning,” Raco said.

The proposed new bridge structure is anticipated to be a maximum of 34m long, 12.5m wide at base level, with the maximum width at deck level to be 7.5m. The structure will have a maximum height of no more than 2.5m above invert level with 10 culvert openings.

Raco said he was determined for the project to be completed in under a year’s time.

Other issues were discussed including farm security, recent fire outbreaks and fire insurance by the Fire Protection Association and the Eastern Border Farmers Association 100 year celebrations on May 28.

 

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