Free State Agriculture (FSA) has warned that the Free State’s road infrastructure is in a dire state. FSA has directed an urgent letter to the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport, requesting urgent intervention to repair roads for critical access.
This follows the recent flooding in the province that caused severe damage to Free State roads.
Over the past few years, roads in the province have been very poorly maintained. The extreme downpours have resulted in many roads and bridges being washed away or rendered impassable.
This situation is testament to a breakdown in critical infrastructure that facilitates continued economic activity in rural areas. Farmers will find it increasingly difficult to transport produce to markets. In addition the increased immobility puts the lives and livelihoods of entire communities at risk.
For example, many underprivileged residents cannot access medical care. Also farmworkers are finding it even more challenging to travel to and from work.
Medical care could be compromised
“Left unattended, farm dwellers such as pensioners and schoolchildren will not be able to access services. Taxis have long since refused to drive on these roads. In addition clinics and ambulances will not be able to access farms to deliver chronic medicine and transport critically ill patients.
“These are all infringements on the basic human rights of citizens based in rural areas,” says FSA president, Francois Wilken. He adds that farmers have already started to repair crucial roads, but they would need financial and material support to stave off further disaster.
There is an urgent request for equipment such as graders and tractor-loader-backhoes (TLBs) to be made available since the state’s aged yellow fleet is essentially out of order due to poor maintenance. Furthermore material such as bitumen/tar, concrete, culvert pipes, and diesel for the equipment of farmers who are doing repairs, are needed.
Immediate intervention is needed
According to Wilken, FSA is finalising an internal plan to improve the poor state of the roads. If road infrastructure is left unattended, FSA members will be forced to act and repair roads where access is critical. As an immediate step FSA is consulting legal and other experts on what citizens and other entities can do to repair roads.
In March 2019, following floods near Rouxville in Mohokare, it took three months to get the local council to declare a state of disaster to obtain funding from the roads department and repair impassable roads.
Nearly two years later, even with a disaster declaration, these roads have still not been properly repaired. With massive downpours, the little gravel left on the roads could wash away, making the roads a life-threatening hazard for travellers, and even more costly to repair.
For this reason, FSA appeals to political heads to speed up the disaster declaration process and obtain resources to assist rural communities. – Press release, FSA