Change rolls in

2009-09-05 08:20

I AM blown away by how

many people are intimidated by change. When change occurs, it’s usually

portrayed as bad even if it’s for the better.

These people are so opposed to change that they’ll ­focus on how

negative it is instead of adapting to it or embracing it.

It could be that they are afraid of disturbing their comfort zone.

Or maybe it’s just an internal ­battle of changing what has ­become familiar.

I guess that’s why so many ­people are stuck in relationships that

do not work. They’ve ­become so comfortable in their ­relation­ship and living

arrangement that they would prefer to be miserable rather than experiencing

change.

When change is forced on them, the person either lives in denial or

becomes bitter. Then again, adapting, rather than tolerating, can be quite

challenging at times.

I have witnessed this hostility towards change in my own township

over the years.

Whenever the government ­introduced a project which had the

potential to change our lives for the better, our first reaction was to

protest.

I remember how enraged people were when the idea of building

shopping centres was first introduced in Soweto. Spaza shop ­owners were worried

about their businesses and immediately ­opposed this change. Local residents

felt obliged to support them even though they knew that ­shopping centres would

bring a breath of fresh air to our ­township. 

Fast forward to 2009. The small shopping centres have turned ­into

extravagant malls and my neighbour’s spaza shop is still ­operating despite all

the initial drama.

The same thing happened with the prepaid water system. For a

government which promised free water and electricity for the poor, this was

viewed as the ultimate ­betrayal. My family was among the Phiri residents who

protested.

Community leaders ordered us to lock our gates and unleash our dogs

so that volunteers from Joburg Water would not feed us rubbish about the

project.

After a long and expensive fight we gave in and the prepaid meters

were installed. Though some ­people may disagree with me, the system is very

efficient and ­affordable.

When we heard about the Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) and its

benefits for the locals, scepticism went out the door and we couldn’t wait to

have it up and running.

For the first time in years there was something that we were all

­excited about.

We waited patiently while still cursing under our breaths about the

traffic and mess the construction was causing, but this change gave us hope for

better things to come.

It is sad that the taxi operators are now trying to steal our joy.

For years we have tolerated their ­rundown engines, their lack of manners and

never-ending taxi wars.

We joined long queues every day and boarded their moving ­coffins

because of very limited ­options. The BRT seemed like a lifeline. 

But instead of adapting to this change and becoming part of the

solution in our messed-up transport system, taxi operators continue to put our

lives in danger.

One could have mistaken ­this past Monday for a public holiday as

hundreds of people chose to stay home instead of risking their lives by boarding

the colourful Rea Vaya buses.

In a society that is trying so hard to do things differently in

­order to change and improve our daily lives, taxi operators stick out as the

weakest links.

They are like human beings who have been told that the best way to

fly is by flapping your arms. They go around flapping their arms, trying to fly,

believing that it’s the best way to do it.

A person with more vision would say there’s got to be a better way

and go on to invent an ­airplane.

Taxi operators need to start looking further than their windscreens

and stop treating ­commuters like they own them. Their ignorance and resistance to the BRT system is crippling the very people who put food on their plates. These people – who are our mothers, fathers, grandparents and children – have the right to choose safer and cheaper alternative transport

without being held ­hostage by what now seems like power-hungry thugs.

It would be a shame if the ­government gave in to this

­bullying.

After all the hell that taxi ­operators have put us through the least they can do is not ruin the party for us. Mapiloko is a reporter for City Press’s investigative unit


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