South Africa’s infrastructure is lagging far behind the rest of the world, in large part due to a lack of proper maintenance.
This is according to South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) member Professor Marianne Vanderschuren.
SAICE performs an annual assessment of South Africa’s infrastructure, wherein they rank the infrastructure in different categories and subcategories.
Their “grading” system works as follows:
- A – World-class
- B – Fit for the future
- C – Satisfactory for now
- D – At risk of failure
- E – Unfit for purpose
- 1 received an A
- 8 received a B
- 6 received a C
- 14 received a D
- 4 received an E
Therefore, the majority of sectors and subsectors that were assessed were classified as “at risk of failure”.
“That gives you an indication that maintenance in our sector is just not happening,” she said.
Vandershuren’s comments come in light of an explosion in Johannesburg which ripped apart Lilian Ngoyi Street, previously Bree Street, on 19 July.
The cause of the blast has since been identified as methane gas, and the approximate cost to fix the road and bring it up to global standards will be R178 million.
Vandershuren attributed South Africa’s infrastructure failings to a lack of maintenance.
“Unfortunately, in South Africa, there has been an unconscious – or conscious in some cases – decision to not maintain,” she said.
“And unfortunately, if you don’t maintain your infrastructure, you will not get as many years out of it as if you were doing regular maintenance.”
She said this has caused many sectors and subsectors in South Africa to decline.
Vandershuren said there are many engineers in the country that are willing to do the work it takes to maintain and uplift South Africa’s infrastructure.
However, she said SAICE has been witnessing a decline in its membership over the past few years as skilled engineers, technologists and technicians are retiring, leaving the country, or joining other fields.
“The main trend that we can provide for young engineers and young technicians and technologists is less and less, and that’s problematic.
“What we also see is that the number of engineers, technicians and technologists in municipalities has dwindled in South Africa.”
“If you don’t have the skill set, then it’s really difficult to actually make sure that appropriate maintenance and monitoring [can happen continuously].”