Pothole repair, South African style

An innovative public-private partnership, harnessing citizen participation, is helping Johannesburg solve its potholes problem, demonstrating a typically creative South African approach to tackling the service delivery challenges. 

Potholes in South Africa
(Image: Pixabay)

A special task force comprising provincial and local government departments and two private entities has been organised to tackle potholes in Johannesburg.

The Dial Direct Pothole Brigade, launched as a pilot project in August 2010, is a public-private partnership between insurance provider Dial Direct, Lead SA, the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) and the Gauteng provincial department of roads and transport.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the four in Sandton, Johannesburg on Monday, signalling their “long-term commitment to getting rid of portholes”.

To fix potholes, the Dial Direct Pothole Brigade will use an innovative Jetpatcher, which is a large articulated vehicle that carries aggregate and hot asphalt for patching up or repairing potholes. A high-tech machine mounted on the chassis of a truck, it uses a high pressure compressor to blow out debris and water from the pothole. The airflow cleans out fissures in the hole to ensure that complete waterproofing is achieved.


The operator then feeds aggregate into the jet distributor, which passes through the nozzle and is sprayed into the pothole or broken road edge. The Jetpatcher’s asphalt mix is sprayed at speeds of up to 100 kilometres an hour and compaction is achieved from the bottom up. The result is denser than rolled asphalt.

Dry aggregate is sprayed from the Jetpatcher, which protects the top of the repair from the traffic flow. The process takes between two and 10 minutes and helps to avoid further damage to the road base. After being fixed, a 500mm by 500mm pothole that is 150mm deep can be driven over immediately.

The roads agency has to repair an average of 5 000 potholes a month, which is why the City jumped at the opportunity to join this initiative. Its roads agency is responsible for the construction and resurfacing of Joburg roads, construction of bridges, building and managing culverts and storm water drains, maintenance of road infrastructure, traffic lights, road markings and signage.

Although the JRA was dealing with eradicating potholes, the additional capacity through public and private partnerships would enable the City to do much more, said the mayoral committee member for transport, Rehana Moosajee. “Believing in the importance of government working together with the private sector and civil society, we think that this partnership will enable us to do even more in the interests of the citizens of Johannesburg.”

She added that the launch of the Jetpatcher proved that there were more creative ways to face “the many challenges that continue to plague local, provincial and national government in addressing the backlogs of an apartheid spatially planned city but continuing to forge ahead with a vision for a city and country of our future”.

Bradley du Chenne, a senior executive at Dial Direct Insurance, said over 3 500 potholes had been repaired in and around Johannesburg since the Jetpatcher was piloted. The work being done through the Jetpatcher would supplement that already done by government agencies.

“Dial Direct is all about providing simple, smart insurance solutions and the Pothole Brigade follows suit by offering a simple, smart solution to an issue that affects us all. This initiative could also eliminate unnecessary claims on motorist’s car insurance policies and save motorists money in the long run,” he explained.

Primedia Broadcasting chief executive and the spearhead of the Lead SA initiative, Terry Volkwyn, said: “By simply reporting a problem, motorists on our roads are standing up and they get to see the impact their seemingly small action has made.”

Report potholes

Du Chenne advises motorists who unwittingly drive over potholes to have their vehicles checked out by a professional, particularly if there are bumps protruding from the sidewall of tyres. “Then, log on to Lead SA or Pothole Brigade to report the pothole so that the Dial Direct Pothole Brigade can repair it,” he said.

Once a pothole has been reported to the brigade, a reference number, which can be used to track its repair status, will be sent to the person making the report. You will also have the opportunity to opt in for updates via SMS or e-mail.

Reported potholes will be inspected and if the Dial Direct Pothole Brigade can repair it, it will be filled using the Jetpatcher. If the pothole is beyond the brigade’s scope of repair, the details will be sent on to either the JRA or the provincial department of roads and transport.

“The best thing about this initiative is that it won’t cost motorists a cent. Dial Direct is covering all the costs of repairs. Our intention is to make a difference and to give something back to the community,” said Du Chenne.

The pothole brigade urges motorists who identify potholes to report them either online or by dialling *120*1551# from a cellphone and following the onscreen instructions, or via the mobile site, potholebrigade.mobi.

Ismail Vadi, the Gauteng MEC for roads and transport, said his department welcomed the official launch of the joint initiative and affirmed the commitment to being part of this public-private partnership.

Source: City of Johannesburg

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