In Africa, we do what we like

2012-06-26 10:34

David Moseley

My Aussie mate (just the one, I couldn’t handle more than one of those accents in my life), a roofer, tells me that for him South Africa is the land of milk and honey. Back home the rules and regulations in his trade would have sunk his entrepreneurial ship before it even set sail. But over here, he could hire staff and get onto jobs minus all the red administrative tape that Australian officials apparently love so much to keep everyone as tall as the shortest poppy.

That's the positive side of the freewheeling do-as-we-please attitude that seems to be prevailing in South Africa at the moment. Start something. Fill in the forms later. Success.

But what about the flip side, where the little regulations and rules are constantly ignored by everyone, and the justification is "well, he's doing it, so why can't I".

Last week I turned off the N1 just outside Cape Town. Later, to get back on, there was a detour due to road works. Do you think motorists were taking the detour? Of course not. Why take a five-minute detour (five minutes! My God!) when you can simply drive over a grass traffic island and pop right back onto the N1.

I sat in the queue watching as, at first, the usual suspects started island hopping: taxis, battered bakkies, trucks and then eventually, suburban moms with that defiant "well if the taxis are doing it, so am I" glint in their eyes.

'Little' lawlessness

It was a telling moment because it summed up exactly how people go about their business in this lovely "lawless" land of ours. We basically just do whatever suits us. No worries. But if you can't follow the rules out of inconvenience, then how can you be expected to follow the rules at all? A short drive on any of the major highways will highlight our laissez faire approach to basic rules.

That's why it fills me with joy when I hear that police officers may be able confiscate mobile phones if they spot motorists driving and talking. Police, allow me to give you this tip off; park your cars outside any of the suburban Cape Town schools and you’ll make enough in fines and bonuses to take you all to Disneyworld for your Christmas holidays.

It's the little things, and it seems silly to have a vendetta against them, but in my mind, if you can't follow those simple (potentially life-saving) regulations, then you don't have a say when you're sitting around your table of cheese and wine moaning about the state of crime in the country.

If you take your car over an island instead of taking the detour, you can't whinge about the way the country is going downhill while sipping your aggressively expensive shopping mall coffee.

If you sprint down the street to avoid a parking marshal when you've been in a metered bay all day, or argue with a traffic officer because he wants to fine you for parking in a loading zone, forcing a truck to park in the road, forcing a bus to stop in the oncoming traffic, you're as much as part of the problem as the chap behind you mugging the pedestrian. You may not tut-tut about government inefficiency at your high-tea and scone party.

This is Africa, and we do what we like. But maybe it's time we all started doing what's right. Who knows? Maybe some bad attitudes will change.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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  • charlesdumbwin.dumbwin - 2012-06-26 10:45

    This reads like a Lead SA punt. Are you on the payroll Dave?

      citizen.kane.35 - 2012-06-26 10:57

      @Charles, dont be such a cynical ass, Davids right it has to start somewhere why not with us, it does beg the question David though about visible policing, people will only stop when they do get hammered by the law

      Russki - 2012-06-26 11:51

      No, David has a point. People completely flaunt the rules when it suits them. Even simple traffic rules (Citroes' comment) can't be obeyed by some people.

      Misty - 2012-06-27 08:22

      Yet another chop.

  • ben.bezuidenhout3 - 2012-06-26 10:58


  • Citroes - 2012-06-26 11:44

    I live in the same building that has Conde Nast's Cape Town offices. The building is in a small, very narrow one way street. The women that work for that group somehow missed that the street is a one way, and every single day several of these cows drive up the wrong way and then have the audacity to have an attitude if you are coming down the street the right way and flash them because you have nowhere to go. Its a small thing, but it yet again shows the attitude of not giving a rat's @ss for rules. You have to wonder what other rules they break.

      arnais.port - 2012-06-26 15:58

      Enough said. Well done.

      Tom - 2012-06-30 08:25

      i would also have an attitude if u flashed me

  • Russki - 2012-06-26 11:49

    What irritates me most is people who feel entitled to park in the disabled parking spaces when they can jog out of their cars to the shop. I don't care if you'll only be 5 minutes. If I can have the self-discipline not to park there, then so should you. Walk the extra few metres you lazy sons of...

      Vicky - 2012-06-26 12:10

      Obtain some cards which read "you park like a pig - in fact, you park like 2 pigs"

      gordon.trevat - 2012-06-26 12:34

      In some countries if people park illegally in disabled spaces, they stick a brightly coloured big (A4) sticker on the drivers window that is very difficult to get off. Now that's more effective motivation than a fine.

      alexandra.robertson.969 - 2012-06-26 13:28

      The best sign I ever saw next to a disabled parking bay was "stupidity is not a disability". Walking a few extra metres is hardly that much effort for the able bodied so there is no excuse!

      Tamandjaz - 2012-06-27 11:53

      and the idiots who park in the mom's with babies spots!

      Tom - 2012-06-30 08:27

      this is the number one irritant for me and i have in fact keyed peoples cars based on this alone.

  • Anthea - 2012-06-26 12:22

    He's right about the schools though, not just the CT ones, any school. It is fascinating how a self centred person will block up the whole queue so their kid can get out, just because they are too lazy to find a parking. Don't let me get started on the cell phones, going up one ways, zooming through the parking with little kiddies trying to cross the lot. I think it all boils down to a lack of respect for one another and the rules that make daily operations possible. That kind of consideration should be a given, not a legal requirement.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-06-26 12:39

    South Africa is country of 50mil exceptions , invoking the but-justing principle : "but i'm just...(add whatever rule,law or etiquette the are contraveneing).

  • alexandra.robertson.969 - 2012-06-26 13:28

    You are so right, the small seeming insignificant things are where it starts, but where do you draw the line and call yourself a criminal for breaking the law?

  • joy.termorshuizen - 2012-06-26 15:27

    I could not agree with you more.....Rudi Juliani fixed New York with his policy of " we will sweatthe small stuff!" They started fining people for small things like jaywalking etc. The cultureof lawlessness in SA is a result of good laws but no implementation. I for one cant wait to see cell phones impounded.

  • ian.jansevanvuuren - 2012-06-26 16:43

    Fact. Its called the broken window theory. Neglecting the small things turns on the big things.Well-researched in crimonology.

      Mickee - 2012-06-27 06:42

      New York - Mayor fixed up all the broken windows in a down trodden suburb, soon enough, people wanted to move back, crime went down. Ignore the small issues and they soon turn into huge problems.

  • gareth.vorster.9 - 2012-06-26 21:35

    I'd like to dedicate this post to my father, who is also a roofer. So dad, if you're up there.

      david.a.moseley - 2012-06-27 09:28

      Nice one, Gareth :)

  • lindie.botha.79 - 2012-06-26 22:11

    I agree 100%. I was hooted at by the guy behind me because I dared stop at a stop street. So not only are we flaunting the rules, we are dismissive and impatient with people who try to abide by the rules. Are we really surprised at the high levels of crime in this country, when ordinary citizens behave like this?

  • Mark - 2012-07-03 03:02

    Another traffic peeve - the 'Hazard Lights of Infinite Freedom'. Idiots who think that activiting their emergency lights gives them the license to do as they will. I want to stop in 2 seconds! Flashers! I want to reverse down a highway! Flashers! I want to triple park for 15 minutes! Flashers! Red light? No problem! Click Click Click! Then when you honk at them, they act all surprised, like they gave you 'fair warning' with their indicators.

  • Paul Stainton - 2012-07-03 10:24

    It all boils down to a lack of respect for other people, the environment we all share etc. Lack of respect = no value placed on a human life No value for a human life = violent criminality & lawlessness Sweat the small stuff and the consequence of which, the bigger picture takes care of itself. Thanks David.

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