• Wheels24 reader Gerhard Horn got stuck with his Mini en route to work.
• A complete stranger came to his aide, restoring his faith his humanity.
• Horn says Abinet reminded him of the true South African way
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24
Scrolling through the news, or even reading text messages on your phone about someone close who died, has sadly become the norm.
Gerhard Horn is one of SA's motoring journos. He's a husband to his super-wife Feebs, and a father of two little boys, and he has an incredible sense of humour, as well as a strange obsession with cupholders. An avid 4x4-fan, he has a penchant of telling stories, especially in Afrikaans.
He recently found himself in a pickle when a complete stranger came to his aid. This is his story:
To tell this story, I need to provide some context.
I'm the proud owner of a classic Mini Clubman 1275 E. It was an impulse buy, purchased as a toy. I went out with a friend to look at some classic cars, and I came back with a Mini. As you can imagine, my wife was exceedingly pleased. I'm only kidding, of course.
I have two vices: smoking and collecting old tat that doesn't work correctly. My other car is an Alfa 156 Sportwagon V6. I justified that purchase by telling my wife that I needed something to take the kids to school in. Nevermind the Honda Jazz and Suzuki Ciaz standing in the garage.
In any case, the Mini was meant as a toy. A project car I could work on over the weekends, and eventually, turn into a mini-rally car of sorts. But then I started driving it daily. It's just such a fantastic little car that I can't not drive it every day. It's responsive, handles beautifully, and it feels like it's going a million miles an hour, even though it struggles to get to 90km/h.
It has become my daily, and I use it to drive between Centurion and Johannesburg thrice a week. It is dependable, or at least it was until the pipe that leads from the engine block to the heater decided to commit suicide in a spectacular fashion just outside of Diepsloot. I first noticed the oil temperature go way up near the red. It was odd because the Mini never goes more than halfway up the needle. Knowing what ignoring that would lead to, I found a quiet road and pulled over. The amount of steam coming out of the engine bay easily rivalled the large plumes of vape smoke you see exiting the windows of modern Minis in Fourways. That's how large the cloud was.
So, there I was. Stranded next to the road near Diepsloot, and it took about two minutes before the first car pulled up behind me. Quiet road, strange vehicle, I knew where this was going. I am South African after all, so always prepared for the worst. I think the Covid-19 virus made us even more negative overall. The constant bickering on social media, the conspiracy theories, and the continuous stream of bad news have left us in a state where we're always waiting for that next punch in the gut. I was sure getting mugged would just be another thing I could tick off while playing 2021 bingo.
I couldn't have been more wrong, because it wasn't a bad guy who saw an opportunity to mug somebody stuck next to the road. His name was Abinet, and he was one of the kindest, most decent people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Abinet inspected my engine bay. He saw the problem and said we needed some steel Pratley Putty. I knew this already. I already had the replacement parts in the garage, but instead chose to spend my weekend fitting new LED lights rather than fix the worn-out piping. But, not wanting to be an insufferable know-it-all, I simply nodded. At the same time, Abinet filled my radiator up with water, watching in amusement as the car ralphed all of it out again a second or so later. He could have left me there. I would not have been surprised. Fixing that particular issue on the side of the road was a tall order.
Instead, Abinet told me to follow him to the very next turn-off around 300 metres away. This was, he said, where he had worked since 1999. My car was safe there. "The other guys will look after it while we're away," said Abinet.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"There's a Midas at the Diepsloot Mall," said Abinet.
So, there I was, in the front seat of Abinet's beautifully looked after Nissan. I'm not 100% sure what model it was, but it was clear that Abinet was a fan. He bragged about the fuel consumption on that bad boy. He can drive all the way to his home in Limpopo, and back, and commute for another week before the tank is dry. He purchased the Nissan after some hijackers relieved him of his Corolla late last year.
We arrived at Diepsloot Mall within 15 minutes, around 30 minutes before Midas was scheduled to open. Instead of dumping me there and telling me to get an Uber, Abinet waited. He waited until the doors opened, and insisted on coming in with me to ensure that I purchased the right Pratley Putty.
He drove me back to the Mini. I was sure he'd leave me at that point, but he insisted on mixing the putty. You could tell he had done it a few times before. He was bragging about how the gearbox on his Corolla was practically held together by the stuff. Not having a smooth surface on hand, Abinet went to his car, retrieved an old reggae CD and made the mixture on there. Ten minutes later, it was dry and holding together nicely. The Mini's oil temperature had dropped back to normal, and I could go back to my day.
But how do you repay someone like Abinet? I took around an hour and a half out of his day, so whatever he was paid hourly sounded fair. Round it up to two hours, and pay the kind man for his time, mos. Abinet didn't want payment. He is a true South African hero. He performed a random act of kindness because it is the South African way.
As Mandalorians would say, "this is the way."
I needed Abinet's kindness more than he knew. It's tough being South African these days. So many people are dying, the government keeps on cheating us like naughty kids because we are, and instead of compassion, the default response to anything is being a dick. I see it every day on social media.
A friend recently posted about a family member dying of Covid-19, and one of the first comments was something along the lines of "I'm really sorry for your loss, but, statistically speaking, more people die of malaria." What kind of robot posts a comment like that? Because being rude and unwilling to show any kind of empathy has become our default setting as South Africans. This is not the way. We somehow allowed this virus to let us forget who we are.
We're Saffers, dammit. We've lived through tougher BS than this. Remember Zuma? Man, imagine that guy was still in charge.
To wrap up, the Mini is in tip-top shape again. I ordered a new fitting from the UK, but I keep on fixing everything around it. According to Abinet, Pratley Putty can last for years, so a part of me wants to keep it there as a homage to an incredibly kind man who took pity on a privileged white boy and his stupid toy car.
Abinet serves as my reminder not to let kak South Africans get me down. Go ahead and post a nasty comment if you wish. I'm following Abinet's example, and from now on, I'm rather going to be putting my energy toward kindness. That is the true South African way.
Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them drive an old Nissan.