Sheep in taxis, stolen trains, cars in the sea: Are we finally losing the plot?

30 sheep were found in a taxi in Aliwal North on Friday.
30 sheep were found in a taxi in Aliwal North on Friday.

Maybe it's an odd week. An outlier. But judging by the news of the week, it seems South Africans have finally lost the plot, writes Howard Feldman.

I am genuinely afraid that South Africans have finally lost the plot. Whether it is the economic stress of the last few years, the constant reminder of our lost potential, or the taunting laugh and bizarre throat cleating of former president Jacob Zuma, it is not unrealistic to contemplate that our sanity might fast become a thing of the past. Like e-tolls. Or load shedding. Or wealth.

Consider the following three reported stories. All appeared on News24 and all popped onto my feed in the matter of a few hours. I didn't seek them out, they found me, as it were.

It begins in the Eastern Cape where five people were arrested for transporting 30 stolen sheep in a taxi. In a taxi. True story. This happened at the end of last week and it appears as though there might be a syndicate operating in Aliwal North (of all places). It is unclear if the description of syndicate refers to the taxi or the sheep stealing, but the fact that 30 sheep (adult ones, otherwise they would be lambs) were being transported by taxi is bizarre in and of itself. It gives a whole new meaning to travelling "cattle class".

Photographic evidence made it clear that the sheep were travelling without seatbelts and that whereas some of the livestock were fortunate enough to find chairs, others were forced into other areas where the emergency exits were blocked. Safety was clearly no one's first concern.

What the five perpetrators could have been thinking is beyond me. It was further noted that this is not purely an Eastern Cape thing and that the same sheep transporters might be operating in the Free State as well.

Speaking of the Free State, according to News24, a bloke from that region on holiday in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) apparently lost a dare, or something. And so, as one does, he drove what appeared to be a green City Golf (with him inside it) into the sea. It was a sight to behold and it was unclear if the car was fuelled by 95 unleaded or he was fuelled by 42% proof.

Shelley Beach Ski-Boat Club secretary Brenda Johnson, who was at work, had the following to say: "Somebody came running into my office and said there is a car in the bay. When I went to look, the car was floating and the man was standing there giving people the thumbs up, indicating he was not injured or in distress."

"Normally the only things that go into the ocean here are boats. To see a car go in, and to see it done deliberately, was strange. It was not very clever."

The man was apparently rescued by all sorts of people and has now returned to the Free State (presumably) to prevent his sheep from taking any strange modes of public transport.

Still in KZN, News24 is currently reporting on yet some more odd behaviour. According to the publication, "Two unknown suspects went off the rails on Friday night and stole an empty passenger train before driving it from eMkhomazi to Umgababa in KwaZulu-Natal – a distance of 12km. Passenger Rail Agency Agency of SA (Prasa) spokesperson Zama Nomnganga confirmed the incident to News24, saying that Prasa's security officials were investigating the incident."

"The train was taken by unauthorised persons. They are not employees of Prasa."

Nomnganga said he was surprised when he learnt of this because operating a train is a specialised procedure. They took a train for a joy ride.

The sad part about the story is that it might have been the only local train to have arrived anywhere on schedule. No train was torched in the process.

It can't be normal. News24 is not the type of publication that peddles the fantastical. But if there is news, they report it.

Maybe it's an odd week. An outlier. Perhaps in a week when a cold front has enveloped the country, Boris Johnson was appointed British Prime Minister, and the Public Protector was more or less called a liar by the highest court in the land, anything can happen. But I do worry that the stress and anxiety of being South African in the current environment is robbing us of any sanity and perspective that we might have clung to.

To some extent all South Africans are like that green Golf driver. We have all driven in too far and need to be rescued. On the face of it we are calm and able to climb onto the roof and wait for help to arrive. But that doesn't mean that we aren't surrounded by a raging ocean that threatens to overwhelm us at any time.

 - Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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