Expedited road repair and re-opening follow cooperation between civil society and government

The power of an active citizenry and civil society was highlighted once again with the commitment from the Gauteng Provincial Government to reopen the Wierda Road (M10) before the end of September. The road was closed to traffic in November last year between the N14 and Ashwood Drive after a sinkhole formed. The M10 serves as a main arterial route linking the western suburbs with Centurion CBD and the N14 and N1 highways.

However, six months after the road’s closure, government officials were still trying to determine which sphere of government, or possibly the Gautrain, should take responsibility for repairing the road. The road closure severely impacted businesses in the vicinity of the Wierda Bridge. AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit was approached by concerned businesspeople from Lots of Pots, Sasol Lyttelton Manor, Royal Elephant Hotel and the KappiChino coffee bar pleading for help.

The unit wrote a letter to the Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Kedibone Diale Tlabela,  alerting the government to the detrimental effect the situation was having on people’s livelihoods and jobs.

This was the beginning of a unique and very successful engagement between government, civil society, businesspeople, private contractors, and service providers to speedily assess the extent of the sinkhole and develop a plan to fix it to ensure the road is reopened.

Regular early morning meetings were initiated and led by the unit’s head, Adv. Gerrie Nel. “Government’s willingness to openly engage with us during monthly early morning meetings attended by the Deputy Director General (DDG) for Roads and Transport, Mmaphuti Mokobane, and various senior members of his department, as well as Anton Els and Pieter Smith from Lots of Pots and our team resulted in prioritising the reopening of the road.

“The unit would also like to extend a special word of thanks to Hendrik van den Berg from Civil Concepts and Henk Daling, representing Bondev as private contractors, for their efforts and contributions to resolving the problem,” says Nel.

Words were soon put into action, and repair work began in earnest. Heavy machinery soon moved on site, and excavation and earthworks got underway. In the last of several productive meetings, DDG Mokobane assured that the road would be reopened before the end of September.

“Opportunities to commend the government do not come often, but we commend Mr Mokobane and his team. We hope that the success has impressed on all the realisation of the effect of open engagement and commitment to solving infrastructure problems. The business community, particularly Anton Els and Pieter Smith from Lots of Pots, illustrated that more can be achieved, and community concerns addressed through open and constructive engagement rather than having to take to the streets in violent protest seeking to attract attention to problems which severely impact the livelihood of affected communities,” adds Nel.

Smith reflected on the impact the road closure has had on his business. “Due to Lots of Pots’ location, our business was severely impacted due to the road closure in November 2022. We have lost many customers due to the detour they have to take to get to our business and it will take a lot of effort, time and financial resources to get them back. 

“Not only did the closure of the road negatively impact Lots of Pots Centurion, but other businesses, residents and commuters also suffered for the past 10 months. Lots of Pots is very grateful for the cooperation and commitment we had from authorities and other stakeholders regarding the repair of Wierda Road,” continues Smith.

Els and Smith thanked AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit for answering their call for help. “We had several meetings with AfriForum, the office of the MEC of Transport and Roads and consultants and contractors over the last few months and we were excited to hear during our last meeting, that the road will be opening very soon.

“During the last few weeks, we have seen that they are actively repairing the road. Lots of Pots wishes to thank Adv. Gerrie Nel and his team, the authorities and all the stakeholders who supported us during this period and for prioritising this project and committing to opening the road at the earliest possible time,” concludes Smith.

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