There’s a silent victim of this rainy season: the city’s municipal budget.
With large sections of Windhoek roads badly affected by the recent heavy rains, millions meant for development purposes will now have to be diverted to pluck damaged roads as the City tries to keep up with the plethora of potholes.
The potholes are more than mere annoyances. The damage that the city’s roads have taken this rainy season are likely to cost the municipality in excess of N$70 million. And that doesn’t include the cost to car owners, who have to cope with punctured tires and other repairs after hitting potholes that are often not clearly visible, especially when filled with rainwater.
Dirk Reed, CoW’s Roads and Storm Water divisional head revealed the figures this week saying that it is around this season that the CoW’s purse is squeezed by this cost.
“It is a huge challenge, especially this year, as the new Procurement Act delayed the appointment of Unit Rate and Reseal Contractors. The contractors will hopefully be appointed within the next month, where after the city can repair all the potholes,” he said.
He added; “Wet conditions also hamper the process of the physical repair of the potholes. We have our own teams that do their best, but we are falling behind on the repairs.”
Ardent road users, especially taxi drivers have frequently complained about the state of city roads that poses a great threat to their vehicles. They have also accused the CoW of being selective when it comes to fixing potholes in the townships as supposed to those in affluent suburbs.
“A pothole in the affluent side of town is fixed within a week but potholes in the main roads of Katutura go for weeks unattended to. They later become like little ponds and cars now have to drive into the next lane to avoid damage. This is really unfair,” said taxi driver Phillemon Ugwanga. Reed from CoW shot down these accusations saying they try to repair potholes as fast as possible but highlighted that the delayed appointment of Unit Rate and Reseal Contractors has been the main challenge in terms of urgently rehabilitating the damaged roads.
The cost to replace a tyre ranged from N$800 to N$10 000, depending on the vehicle.
A salesman at one of the popular tyre fitment centres in Windhoek, who asked not to be named, said: “The problem of potholes is so severe in the city that we sometimes replace tyres on the same car within a short space of time, especially taxis. Some of them come for tyre patching, while others have to replace the tire and the rim due to the extent of the damage.”
Taking into consideration the complexity of maintaining and upgrading roads in a busy city during heavy rains, road users also accused the CoW for poor quality roads that are continuously under rehabilitation.
To this, Reed said; “The City uses a Pavement Management System and assess the condition of all the roads in the City every two years, from where streets for reseal are prioritized and identified. Factors taking into account are the hierarchy of the streets. Arterial roads with higher traffic volumes get preference above residential streets with low traffic volumes. The age of the streets and extend of the deterioration also comes to account.”
“The older roads need more attention, and budget restrictions are also taken into account. Further that, the maintenance of roads competes against other more important services in the City for a piece of the same (small) cake,” he added.