Scene showing a country road with a massive sinkhole forming in the middle
A portion of the P43/3 (Eiland Road) is sinking following the recent heavy rains in the region. Motorists are advised to use the Giyani Road instead. Photo: Joe Dreyer

A portion of the P43/3 (Eiland Road) between Letsitele and the ATKV Eiland Resort and Spa is in the process of collapsing following the recent heavy rains in the region. Bulletin took a drive to the site earlier this afternoon (9 February) to have a look at exactly what was happening after we received reports of a life-threatening sinkhole which was busy forming about five kilometres from the resort.

A bakkie and trailer drive through the sinkhole site. On this image the extent of the drop in the road surface is clearly visible. Photo: Joe Dreyer

Before we left Tzaneen, we spoke to the newly appointed head of the Mopani District Municipality’s Roads and Infrastructure Department, Catherine Maluleke, who said that she was not going to give public comment on the situation, but referred us to their media liaison department “at head office”. We asked her which one of the spokespeople would speak on her behalf – to which she had no answer even when we named all the spokespeople we had on our call list. “I have only just joined this department and so I do not know all of the spokespeople by name, but the media department at head office will be able to tell you who to speak to. You can send them your questions which they will send to me and I will send them answers, which they will send back to you for the public.”

an inspector standing next to the road
Mopani District Municipality’s Roads inspector stands by the site of the sinkhole on the P43/3 Eiland Road. Photo: Joe Dreyer

Maluleke did however state that she was aware of the sinkhole and that she had dispatched a team from Giyani to the site. Bulletin met with the Roads Inspector from the Mopani District Municipality, Frederick, at the site. After thorough inspection he determined that the corrugated culverts running beneath the road surface were still in tact and that the heavy rains had caused flooding which had displaced the soil beneath the two culverts, which was in turn causing the road’s surface to sink. “The only way we can fix this is to remove the section of tar and the soil beneath this spot where it is sinking. We will then have to pour concrete and then fill it up with the soil and then resurface,” Frederick explained. “My first order of business however, is to establish an alternative route around this site so that motorists can pass while we work. It is an emergency and we must start quickly.”

The corrugated culverts that run underneath the road. These culverts were clogged up with debris causing the water to erode the soil around them. Photo: Joe Dreyer

Staff from the Komati Group’s Mabete Citrus operation which borders the Eiland Road, were on hand to assist and made their grounds available for the detour. Within an hour, workers from Komati were already hard at work preparing the gravel road that runs parallel to the tarred road to ensure that traffic from both directions would be able to pass safely. The engineering team from Komati Group will inspect the site in the morning to ensure that the detour is structurally sound and safe to handle traffic.

The Mopani District Municipality Roads team have placed chevrons and large danger signs at both ends of the sinkhole to warn approaching motorists of impending collapse of the road and the alternative route. At the time of writing this piece, we were told that reparations to the sinkhole would commence as early as tomorrow afternoon, depending on the progress with the detour, and weather permitting.

A side view of the road surface that clearly shows the erosion which has led to the tarred surface sinking beneath its own weight. Photo: Joe Dreyer

Manager of the ATKV Eiland Resort and Spa, Wimpie Boshoff, was also at the scene. He and his team, lead by one his other managers, Chris Burger, spent the evening before, clearing out debris which had caused the culverts beneath the road to block up and water to wash away the soil above. We spoke to him about the situation, not only with the sinkhole, but the road in general. “Currently we have guests from other provinces visiting our resort. They do not know this area or this road. If you had to hit this sinkhole in the middle of the night at 80km/h while towing a caravan, you will roll your vehicle,” he exclaimed. “This road is so bad, and has been so bad for a very long time. In fact, I have not driven this road myself for about six months because of all the potholes. I tell all of our guests to use the Giyani Road instead. It really does have a negative impact on our income.”

Bulletin took a drive through the entire length of the Eiland Road and counted the potholes which have made this route nearly impassable to sedans and smaller family vehicles (see the video here). It is beyond belief that we counted approximately 1 136 potholes (we may very well have missed a few) between the ATKV Eiland Resort and Spa, and the t-junction with the R71 that leads to Letsitele. This despite a roads crew busy repairing the surface with bags of cold tar. The same road crew we photographed in December.

Bakkie next to a road filled with potholes
This is a 20-meter stretch of the Eiland Road. In this section we counted 54 potholes. Photo: Joe Dreyer

At that time, the foreman of this roads crew told us that they had been working on repairing potholes for the Mopani District Municipality for close on a year and that they started at the Eiland side of the road, and were working their way back towards Letsitele’s side. Shocking that the majority of the large potholes we counted, were on the side of the road which this team had apparently already repaired. We were also told that they were not employees of Roads Agency Limpopo (RAL) which is the contractor responsible for the roads in the Mopani District and fall under the department of public works. Nor were they employees of the Mopani District Municipality. They were an independent contractor.

Road maintenance crew directing traffic
This is the roads crew we spoke to in December. They are pictured here plugging potholes with cold tar premix on the afternoon of the 9th of February 2021. The many potholes we counted, were on the road surface behind them (where they had already apparently worked last year). Notice in the image that the worker responsible for operating the “stop/go” sign, had allowed a heavy truck and three vehicles to enter the construction area from different sides, simultaneously. Photo: Joe Dreyer

We will have more on this developing story in this week’s Bulletin out on Friday. In the meantime motorists are warned to steer clear of the Eiland Road and are advised to make use of the Giyani Road if they are planning to visit the resort.

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