Cape Town - Minister of Transport S'bu Ndebele has said South Africa faces a R38.3bn backlog in maintaining the country's core national (R18.4bn) and provincial (R19.9bn) road networks.
Answering a parliamentary question, the minster stopped short of giving details of government plans to address the situation. Instead, he stressed that resolving it would depend on whether treasury made the necessary funds available.
According to the minister, 4 142 km (32%) of the non-toll national road network have a remaining structural life of less than five years, and need "strengthening" within the next five years.
This requires R35.2bn over the next five years. However, Ndebele also stated that the current Medium Term Expenditure Framework budget allocation for this is R16.8bn, which allows for repairing only about 1 980 km, resulting in a shortfall of 2 162 km or R18.4bn over the next five years.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), which posed the question to Ndebele, argued that his answers did not begin to address the full scale of the problem as they are limited to the core network.
The South African road network consists of about 752 000 km of tarred road. Of this, 535 000 km are classified as the responsibility of national, provincial or local government. About 220 000 km are "unclassified". Essentially, this means no sphere of government has been assigned responsibility for them.
DA shadow transport minister Stuart Farrow said this has "profound" consequences for the economy.
"On the one hand, ever-increasing amounts of the budget will have to be set aside to maintain the ever smaller distance of roads managed by the national administration (remember these backlogs are only what is required to keep the status quo).
"On the other hand, crumbling roads means that public transport and the transport of goods are affected," said Farrow. He labelled the situation a consequence of years of neglect.