King Shaka's safety spear

2010-10-07 00:00

Africa’s “Napoleon”, a.k.a. King Shaka, is famous for designing what historians call the short stabbing spear. Shaka called it umkhonto we sizwe, which name the ANC also saw fit to use for its army.

Manje, while tempted, I’m not also going to call Shaka a sadistic, possibly gay, certainly misonogystic warlord who scrapped circumcision because the practice put his warriors on the bench for months. And never mind that he was a man who, like so many ghetto boys today, never knew his dad and so loved his mother that he would, and did, kill for her.

Instead, I’ll be his imbongi and sing the (potential) praises of using his short, stabbing spear as a safety device in our cars.

All we need to do is to fix that foot-long blade so that it juts out of the steering wheel. Understand I’m only taking a wild stab at the expected results, but I’m almost confident that the spear, affixed thus, would make our traffic a lot safer.

“How?” you ask.

Well, would you even THINK of getting impatient behind the wheel while that sharpened tip grazes your chest?

No, I didn’t think so. However, we are not using Shaka's short little spear to improve our driving habits. We are using a device dreamt up by a bunch of large Americans, who tried to make cars safer by doing what they do best: exuding hot air. Naturally, it is called the "airbag".

Airbags was a political answer to a problem that did not exist for people that experience "involuntary acceleration incidents" instead of driving like the rest of us. These incidents, incidentally, now make Americans the only people on the globe who could drive neither the brilliant Audi quattro nor the world’s most middleclass car, the Toyota Corolla.

But back to airbags. The blasted things never worked well and because of their expense, quickly become more popular than radios or hubcaps among thieves.

It is currently the most-stolen item from cars in the UK, with a ready market among panelbeaters who don't ask questions.

Locally, panelbeaters even advise owners of fender benders who’s airbags "deployed" not to replace the darn things, but rather to just short circuit the warning light on the dashboard (with a little plug that costs from R400 on eBay) and drive with more care in the future.

For the reality is that airbags don't "deploy". They explode.

In the process, they smash in the faces of petite women who have to sit close to the steering wheel, break arms and collar bone of guys, using propellants that are so hot they give third-degree burns and leave a layer or skin-scalding chemicals.

Hence, if you are in the market for a car with optional airbags - don't bother.

Invest instead in a roll-cage, bucket seats and a brace of over-the-shoulder seatbelts. You won’t be able to move or even breathe much, but like crashed WRC champs, you will be able to crawl out of any wreck.

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