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.

Another shameful tale of government self-indulgence…or… the road less travelled is smoother, thanks

I read an article in the news media recently about a women who is suing the Kwa-Zulu Natal roads department, and the government, over the loss of a hand and part of a forearm in an accident, in which she was a passenger in a taxi.  Apparently the taxi overturned when the driver lost control after hitting a pothole on an extremely busy road.

I didn’t think too much about it the time, except that I hoped she got to screw them for as much as possible. As you may be aware by now, I am a big fan of anyone who gets to screw the government… back.

Anyway, I came across a follow-up to the story today, where the roads department is opposing the claim based on an unconvincing argument that they lacked the funds for road maintenance, so could not repair the pothole, which earlier evidence indicated could have been repaired for a measly 500 hundred bucks. However that was not what caught my interest, which incidentally, led to full-blown anger as I completed reading the article. No, my anger was the result of the revelation that in about the same fiscal year, the roads department blew around five and half million bucks tarring a quiet country road that runs past the Minister of  Transport, Sbu Ndebele’s country residence – a road that apparently is used by about 20 cars a day, according to court evidence by a local.

I have heard of many incidents involving motorists hitting potholes on our slowly deteriorating road network, most of which fortunately result in damage to the cars only. However, it galls me to think, as I slalom my way to work and back every day, about the sick bastards in government who not only squander our tax money on luxury SUV’s, but on getting fresh tar layed out for them as they drive as well.

Why should we be grateful when politicians do the right thing?

The new government under Jacob Zuma is barely two weeks old, and they’ve already got a taste of the riches that await them. Newly appointed Minister of  Transport, S’bu Ndebele received a R1-million Mercedes Benz S500, some cattle and a plasma television set, at a party last Sunday, as  gifts from a consortium of contractors, who could potentially be benefactors of multi-million rand government contracts.

And it took all of four days for Ndebele to decide to hand them back, even after the President of the country said it was acceptable to receive gifts, if they were declared properly. Declared? I’m seriously missing something here. Why bother after the whole country is already aware of the receipt of the gifts. Of more concern though, is the fact that the leader of the country, Jacob Zuma saw nothing wrong with the whole thing, and made no effort to set an example for clean governance.

Now, the South African taxpayers are expected to be grateful that he did the right thing. We are expected to thank him for being honest and ethical; and the disgusting thing is that some of us did. In real democracies around the world, the citizens wait for an opportunity to exercise their right, to throw a dishonest politician out on his thieving ass. In South Africa the citizens wait for an opportunity to thank a politician for doing his job, sincerely.

Since this disgraceful episode, I have this mental picture of hastily convened meetings where our public servants are feverishly discussing innovative new ways of receiving gifts under the table, and keeping it secret from us, the “disrespectful, inquisitive” public. Are we supposed to strap in for the next five years, and grudgingly count the gifts that are accepted and “declared,” while we publicly praise these miscreants for those that are refused?