Meet the men fixing Wallacedene’s broken roads

Akhona Bhubha, left, and Vuyo Mdletye are fixing damaged roads in Wallacedene.

The City of Cape Town has forgotten about Wallacedene’s roads, say the men who have taken it upon themselves to fix them.

Entrepreneur Akhona Bhubha, 29, is tackling the “crater-like” potholes one at a time, for as little as R1, even when the rain drenches him.

The Northern News spotted a dozen cars bypass the Ntongana Road entrance to Wallacedene, from the Scottsdene side, to drive on top of what used to be a pavement to enter the neighbourhood.

Just up the road, Mr Bhubha is fixing Maroela Road, which has partially collapsed and is riddled with potholes. The work helps to put food on his table, he says.

Felicity Purchase, mayoral committee member for transport, says Maroela Road, Ntongana Road and several other streets in Wallacedene are covered with sewage and cannot be resurfaced when the surface is wet. The City will have to apply “temporary fixes” and wait until roads are dry before potholes are filled.

Just a stone’s throw from where Mr Bhubha is working, also on Maroela Road, the tar and pavement are washing away.

Parts of Maroela Road tar are falling off.

“One motorist once described the potholes as craters. That’s what they are,” Mr Bhubha says. “I am here every day to fix them.”

In his red, rain-drenched tracksuit, he directs traffic onto the smoother sections of road that he has fixed.

He accepts as little as R1 from motorists and residents alike to fix a problem that has gripped Wallacedene’s two main streets for at least five years.

But while the extra income helps, it’s the messages of support and gratitude he gets from his community that keep him going, he says, as he bends down to scoop out water from pothole.

He started regravelling in Wallacedene a month ago, helped by his friend, Vuyo Mdletye, 29. They have also tarred several parts of Wallacedene, including sections on Maroela and Ntongana roads.

“The rain won’t stop us,” says Mr Mdletye. “We feel good when motorists support what we’re doing.”

Mr Bhubha says: “When it’s hot, you will see municipal workers lying under trees or on the grass. They just pass by. Nobody cares. I started this because being unemployed is frustrating.”

Although the roads in Wallacedene have been in a poor state for several years, Ms Purchase says the Covid-19 lockdown is to blame repair work stalling.

“Depots had to reduce their workforce to comply with the Covid-19 health and safety protocols. Only a small staff complement remained on duty to attend to emergencies.

“Due to the timing of the lockdown, depots could not conclude the winter readiness programme, which is vital in preparing for the rainy season. Water ingress is one of the key contributors to the formation of potholes and the winter readiness programme focuses on clearing blockages or potential blockages in time for the winter rains.”

She says the City can only do temporary fixes during the wet months because the road surface needs to be dry for pothole filling to seal. While we are not in the wet winter months yet, roads in Wallacedene are covered with sewage from blocked drains and while this situation persists the roads cannot be resurfaced.

The City’s road depot in Kraaifontein is working with the water and waste department, Ms Purchase says, and will do repairs once the blocked drains have been cleared.

“As the levels of the national lockdown have been eased, the staff numbers at depots have increased to 70%. Clearing of the backlog is being prioritised and being attended to as a matter of urgency and will improve as more staff return to the depots across the city.”

She says contractors will soon be on the ground to repair potholes in Wallacedene.