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The overgrown D4 road, riddled with potholes, between Levubu and Elim. Photo supplied.

Upgrading of D4 road progressing as planned, says RAL

Date: 10 May 2024 By: Andries van Zyl

The Road Agency Limpopo (RAL) announced this week that they were still on track with the upgrading of the D4 road between Malamulele and Elim. Poor road maintenance has resulted in this road’s becoming basically undriveable, leading some people to avoid it entirely.

As a result, traffic has increased on the R524, a road never designed to carry the amount of traffic currently using it. Mr Madoda Mthembu, operations and maintenance manager at SANRAL Northern Region, stated in a recent interview that the R524 currently carries approximately 13,000 vehicles per day, of which five percent are heavy vehicles. “The road has reached the end of its design life and therefore will no longer be able to manage high traffic volumes,” he said.

Mthembu’s comments came amidst a huge public outcry over the R524’s dangerous condition, which has directly contributed to a spate of fatal and near-fatal accidents on this road in recent months. In response, SANRAL announced a major reconstruction of the R524 slated for 2025. For many, including the Levubu farming community, the R524 is their lifeline to the outside world. They use this road to take their children to school, get to work, and transport their products to market, so closing it for reconstruction is not a viable option for them.

However, SANRAL has indicated that it will mitigate traffic congestion by using detours, stop/go operations, or temporary bypasses during construction. They were very clear that they would not involve secondary roads such as the D4 in their planning. This was in direct response to inquiries about whether they would engage with RAL regarding the upgrading of the D4 as an alternative route. “I told them [SANRAL] in no uncertain terms that residents from Levubu cannot afford to wait for two or three hours at stop-and-go points on the road every morning. We have children who need to get to school and people who need to get to work ... There is no way you can accommodate 12,000 or 13,000 vehicles a day with stop-and-go points,” said Mr Fanie Havinga, chairperson of the Soutpansberg Agricultural Union, in a previous interview about the poor state of the R524 and the D4. Mr Havinga was adamant that the D4 required urgent attention.

The D4 has been in the process of “upgrading” for some time now. In September 2023, the Vuwani and Malamulele communities called on RAL to expedite the rehabilitation process for this road. The contractor, Puttie Trading Enterprise, had commenced construction in January of that year, and the R20-million project was expected to be completed by 30 November 2023.

“The project is progressing well and is currently 43.5% complete. It involves the maintenance of road D4 from the 0km mark at the intersection with the N1 via Elim to road D9 in Malamulele,” said Mr Danny Legodi, senior communications manager for RAL, in responding to media queries. He confirmed that Puttie Trading Enterprise is still the contractor.

“The project is on track according to the planned timelines. The total length of the road is 100 km and will be constructed in phases due to budgetary constraints. The road is also divided into two sections: Malamulele to Elim (73.1 km) and Elim to N1 (26.9 km),” Legodi continued. He explained that the scope of work includes site establishment, clearing and grubbing for roadworks, cleaning of hydraulic structures, pothole patching, single seal, recycling of the damaged base, priming, and surfacing with a double seal, road marking, and replacing damaged road signs. How long this would take was not clear.

For Mr Havinga, this is good news. “We are very happy and appreciative of the work being done, but it is a drop in the ocean of what is needed. The current work is just patchwork, and more permanent repairs are needed,” said Havinga. He noted that the section of the road already completed from Malamulele to Levubu as part of the first phase looked very good. “However, the D4 from Levubu to Elim is still in a poor state. But at least we can see people working on the road,” said Havinga. He added that attention should also be given to sections of the road that are severely overgrown.

Whether the spate of current construction work on roads in the region and town streets is just an election ploy or not, most people welcome it. Hundreds of potholes in streets in Louis Trichardt have been excavated for scheduled repairs (although some of these holes have been left open for weeks on end with no logical explanation as to why they were not filled at the same time that they were dug out), and the past week also saw Songozwi Street between the N1 and Grobler Street completely torn up for rebuilding. Again, people are thankful for the new road, but the impulsiveness of the action, with little or no prior warning to motorists, has raised a few eyebrows as it has caused, and still causes, major traffic congestion at the busiest intersection in Louis Trichardt. When construction work will be completed is unclear.

 

 
 
 

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Andries van Zyl

Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.

 
 

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