Expert drivers, and those who just can’t get an appointment to show their skill

I stepped out at the end of the Top Gear Live show yesterday at the Sundome, Johannesburg, in awe of the driving skills displayed, particularly by the French team of motorcyclists in the Cage of Death.

Hosted by Jeremy Clarkson and James May, the show is a spectacle to behold – motoring theatre and comedy at its finest. Even after four years of attending the show since it was first brought out to South Africa by the Top Gear team, with Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond the hosts back then, I still shudder when the pyrotechnic explosions go off, with balls of flame so close, you can feel the heat.

Yesterday, after watching the four motorcyclists riding in a steel cage barely large enough to hold them, weaving intricate patterns, I remember thinking that was one of the most awesome sights I had ever witnessed. Today however, I came across a YouTube video featuring eight motorcyclists in what is admittedly a slightly bigger cage, at a Shanghai circus, and I feel somewhat cheated. To be honest, I guess four motorcyclists in a cage is impressive enough, but Clarkson and company had better bring a cage with nine of them the next time they’re in South Africa.

And just as I was thinking that the comedy in South Africa could not get any better, I came across an article in an on-line publication today, about the Chief Magistrate of Gauteng, Daniel Thulare, being referred to the Magistrate’s Commission for apparently advising that drivers who could prove they had a learner’s licence which had expired while the driver was trying to obtain a testing date for a driver’s licence, would be able to legally drive on South African roads.

For those who are a bit mystified about all this; I think it’s sufficient to reveal that the licencing authorities which presumably falls under the ambit of the  Transport Department, is in what can only be described as a state of disarray. Aspiring learner drivers hoping to get an appointment to demonstrate their proficiency and thus pass their drivers test, have found it nearly impossible to do so, for more than a year already. It is all too apparent that this authority, as with so many other government departments in South Africa, are themselves licenced for incompetence.

Not surprisingly, the Minister of Transport, Sbu Ndebele, who has a country house on probably the only road in South Africa which has no potholes, is not amused by the utterances of  the Chief Magistrate. While his declaration may be technically fair, it is not entirely advisable for a country with so many people who already carry dubious drivers licences [largely due to the endemic corruption at a large number of licencing departments], and who may be deemed to be among the worst drivers in the world.

I however, suspect that the Chief Magistrate is one clever guy, who is just reminding the Transport Department of their inefficiency, in a rather unusual, but amusing way.

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