Year on year, multitudes of South Africans perish on South African roads. Multiple of factors are responsible for this. These factors, such as fatigue, drunkenness and speeding are regarded as direct causes of accidents on our roads. However, these factors are not exclusive. There are other remote factors, which equally contribute to this mayhem.One such factor is the rooted corruption at driver testing centres. In some testing centres across the country, it is common knowledge that learner drivers can easily obtain driver’s license provided they pay facilitation fee – that is bribe. So, if you pay facilitation fee, you are guaranteed a driver’s licence – even if you can not drive. Equally, it can be a case of so-close-yet-so-far if you do not pay the fee; you can easily fail even if you are a gifted driver. Here, money answers all!
I remember an incident some years ago at Nkowankowa testing centre, Tzaneen, of a gentleman who obtained a license without undergoing any test. The gentleman was called out from under a fig tree, where he was lying, to collect his driver's license. That was over 15 years ago. Nothing much has changed. Just recently, I was told by those close to the driving schools industry that facilitation fee still plays a crucial role in the industry. It is an unwritten rule that when you book for testing, you should likewise have “the comforter” – that is facilitation fee. Otherwise, you will be testing in vain. This practice means that unqualified drivers are unleashed onto our roads, exposing our lives to unimaginable levels of danger.
The phenomenon of facilitation fees is not only found at testing centres. If you are found to have transgressed any traffic rule, you can be set free upon payment of the facilitation fee. As you would know, the fee does make it to government coffers; it is paid to officials we are already paying salaries. These officials have assumed the position of evil priests, sacrificing our safety at the altar of greed.
This is the battle that the Department of Transport will find it difficult to win as the enemy is within the camp.
I recently watched, with keen interest, a joint press conference where the Department of Transport and the South African Council of Churches were calling for South Africans to pray for the reduction of road accidents. I am a firm believer in spiritual intervention and fully support this initiative. However, we should remember what the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr said: “to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith, but superstition.”
What this means is that we need to take full responsibility for our own actions and should not shift our responsibility to God. God will do his part, but we must equally do our own part. For an example, by taking practical steps, we can reduce the worsening carnage on our roads. Some of the practical steps, that can compliment other efforts by the Department of Transport, include:
· Adopt a zero-tolerance against corrupt officials –Those officials who are found to be taking bribes should be sentenced for longer time and removed from our roads for good. These officials are no different to accomplice to the crime of murder;· Corruption Database – Those officials who are found to have compromised our safety through taking bribery should be listed in the National Corruption Database and removed from public service; for they have undergone an undesirable change- from civil to evil servants;· Vehicle testing and inspection – Public transport vehicles should be tested and inspected at terminals from where they pick passengers, such as taxi ranks and bus stations. This should be done by the Department of Transport and not outsourced.
Until practical steps are taken, our prayers will just remain dormant. Don’t get me wrong, prayer changes things!
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