Can I repair my farm road and claim cost from Government?
"I am a small commercial farmer. The roads in my region are mostly gravel and dirt roads and are generally in an atrocious state. This has a detrimental effect on the running of my farm as I often cannot get transport in or out of the farm. As these roads have not been maintained in years, a few farmers are considering repairing some of the roads ourselves. Should we continue with such repairs will we have a claim that Government reimburse us?"
In general, it would be expected that private individuals cannot just supplant the authority of Government and start repairing roads and then ask Government to foot the bill. However, in the case of Agri Eastern Cape and others v MEC for the Department of Roads and Public Works and others  2 All SA 406 (ECG) the Court set a precedent for the possibility of private individuals being allowed to repair roads and Government reimbursing them, but subject to stringent terms and conditions.
The case followed from an application by a voluntary association (Agri EC) and members thereof with the focus of the application being the poor condition and lack of maintenance and repair of the road network of the farming communities in the Eastern Cape and the need for a plan of action to remedy the situation.
In determining the matter, the Court found that there could be grounds for farmers to undertake important road repairs and the court ordered the Provincial Roads Department to reimburse farmers who carry out maintenance themselves. Of necessity, such scenarios must be limited and well circumscribed to avoid abuse. To address this, the Court established specific requirements that had to be met, including, providing for notice to the Department of the need to inspect a particular road, obtaining two independent quotations which must be provided to the Department for approval, and if the quotation is accepted by the Department or should the Department fail to respond, the farmer will be allowed to approve a quotation. After the work is completed, the Department must be notified and allowed to inspect the road. The court also proposed that should a dispute arise about the need to repair a road, it must be referred to the Chairman of the Civil Engineers Association for the district in question.
Although, the circumstances are specific in the case, the judgment does provide a precedent for farmers faced with similar problematic situations in respect of their regional and community roads. But before proceeding with any repairs to your roads, it would be advisable that you first consult with your attorney and review what you would need to meet in order to be able to claim for expenses you may incur.
Author Teblanche Slabber Pieters