Friends & Friction: Go slowly on to that gravel road

2014-12-23 14:00

You’ll get there faster if you go slower. You’ll burn far less fuel, which is good for the environment and even better for your pocket. Your stress levels will be lower, and your passengers will enjoy the ride.

Unlike a rose that will bloom again next summer, a life that has been cut too soon is gone forever, often leaving orphans behind.

Remember, it doesn’t help that you were right. When you’re dead, you’re dead. So leave room for idiots to do their thing, and there will be lots who think their names are Schumacher.

We have become callous when the death statistics are published. We shrug our shoulders as if the festive season is a time to cull human beings as a way to curb overpopulation.

Last week, while driving uphill with a truck and a tractor in front of me, the driver of a sedan that was two cars behind me decided to overtake. Two other cars followed him. Suddenly there was a convoy trying to overtake on a barrier line. Then the expected occurred, an oncoming car appeared.

They all scrambled to move to the shoulder on the other side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. Fortunately, there was no crash. That would have been neither an accident nor a mistake, but downright foolishness.

Accept that driving on South African roads is like driving in a war zone. Don’t get distracted by the beautiful scenery. Look at other vehicles as missiles heading in your direction, and the roads as terrain littered with limpet mines to destroy your vehicle.

On the same road, the R25 in Mpumalanga, while cruising at 100km/h as per the speed limit, the tarmac ended without warning. Suddenly, a provincial road became a gravel road. Can you imagine what happens there at night, in the rain; or even worse, both.

I noticed there was no sign indicating who the contractor was – as happens in all other civilised places. But perhaps what’s signified by the absence of that sign is that it’s a case of a tender being awarded to someone who knows nothing about building roads.

Here is my prediction based on gravel road economics: we’ve entered an era similar to that of 1972 to 1975, when South Africa was on the verge of exploding.

Emerging markets are heading into a financial squeeze. The gains brought by a cheaper oil price will be taken away by the falling emerging market currencies, as is happening to South Africa, Russia and Brazil – to mention a few.

As companies lose turnover because of Eskom’s power cuts, they will have to cut staff, swelling the ranks of the unemployed. The people will get angrier, taunted by little things like potholes in the same way they were taunted by petty apartheid.

President Jacob Zuma is seen by many as nepotistic and corrupt, and so he is hated as was BJ Vorster, the prime minister in the 1970s.

Zuma’s friends, the Guptas, have single-handedly put South Africa on the edge of African-Indian violence last seen during the Durban riots in 1949. We know that when people feel deprived – as we saw during the recent xenophobic violence – they tend to blame those who look different.

When historians analyse that violence with the exact science of hindsight, they will find that neither Zuma nor his friends had anything to do with the state of the roads, which will be true. But sociologists will say they remained the symbols of what was wrong with this era.

There is a chance to change the country’s fate, but the solution is radical. The ANC must fire its president the same way it expelled Dr James Moroka. (Recalling Zuma would be an insult to Thabo Mbeki.) The new president will have to declare the Guptas personae non gratae and expel them from South Africa.

Leaders such as Mac Maharaj, Barney Desai and Dr Abu Baker Asvat suffered too much for this country to disintegrate into senseless racial violence.

You can ditch my gravel road analysis if you want, but trust me on the going slowly part.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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