Pavements, public toilets and pick-ups

2008-12-30 00:00

The silly season is sure to become even sillier as election razzmatazz gathers momentum and politicians practise doing two important things at once: making election promises while crossing their fingers. I want to get in early and offer my suggestions for issues that deserve to make it onto party manifestos.

There are three things that still hang about from pre-1994 South Africa like a beer boep over an elastic waist band. I feel as if I have been in open-mouthed incredulity for 14 years, waiting for officials to do something about them. I hope someone will do something, as an awful lot of bugs can fly into your mouth in 14 years.

If I had been anywhere near close enough to get my hands on the power to effect change in 1994, these are the things I would have dealt with immediately. I suspect that the previous regime did nothing about them — if it noticed them at all — because they mostly affected “brown people”, as my children quaintly style the nation’s majority. I am often offended that they still persist, reminding us of an immoral ideology that privileged the few at the expense of the excluded many.

The three things I am referring to are pavements, public toilets and pick-ups. If I’d had the power, I’d have passed legislation to make pavements mandatory along main thoroughfares in populous areas. Old Howick Road, up and down which a steady stream of domestic employees eddies daily, has only lately come to boast a feature that European cities have enjoyed for hundreds of years: a pedestrian walkway. No wonder we boast the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the world as voetgangers vie for road space with moving objects unimagined in other societies, such as floorless taxis steered with spanners and road-rage-powered SUVs. Go figure.

Under the previous dispensation, most people apparently didn’t need toilets any more than they needed pavements. Not a day goes by without my seeing someone somewhere relieving themselves in public. Seldom have I seen this happen with the same regularity and frequency in travels on most of the world’s continents. If I’d had the power in 1994, I’d have made the building of public toilets a priority. BEE has missed a great opportunity — build public ablution facilities, sub-contract their management and charge a small fee to use them, and there you go: hygiene, health and job creation all served in the same pull of a toilet handle.

My final absolute abomination is among cartoonist Zapiro’s favourite topics too: pick-up trucks and human cargo. That employers as varied as farmers, building contractors and tree fellers are still permitted to transport workers in open bakkies gobsmacks me. And that’s before I even start on the subject of school children ferried around like road accident statistics waiting to be counted. My third piece of legislation would have been to outlaw this practice.

Maybe I should follow tannies Evita Bezuidenhout and Patricia de Lille’s lead and start my own political party. If you see posters for the “Triple ‘P’ party” in the new year you’ll know it’s me. Marigold and the three Ps.

Here’s wishing you sanity for the silly season and when the elections finally come around, remember to “think before you ink”.

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