Just when I’d thought I’d seen it all in terms of the idiotic illegality this country serves up on a daily basis, I had my “welcome back to Joburg” reality check on Saturday evening, when the N1 highway congealed into an unmoving mass of automotive metal.
Just our luck, I thought. After driving close to 1,300km in one day, coming back from Knysna, something at the back of my mind nagged: Surely it can’t be going this smoothly … Oh well, accidents happen.
Or, as Howard Dembovsky of Justice Project SA more accurately calls them, collisions or crashes … because these things are, in the vast majority of cases, caused by human error.
And, it was raining. Heavily. So heavily that there were hailstones among the big drops lashing the car. Not the worst I’ve seen, by a long way, and certainly not big enough to damage cars.
It was shortly after that we realised what had happened. As soon as drivers heard and felt the impact of the hail, they pulled up underneath one of the highway bridges. But of course, pulling off the highway into the emergency lane could only accommodate a few vehicles. So everybody – in every lane – stopped under the bridge, creating a roadblock. When the rain eased up about five minutes later, and the hail apparently disappeared, we couldn’t believe what had caused the blockage.
At the bridge next to the next off-ramp, though, it happened again. So, in my best “Grumpy Old Git” mode let me point out the negatives about this sort of thing – if they are not obvious, and they might not be, because people in this country seem to have thrown their moral compass out along with the billions of plastic bags that litter our streets and highways.
Firstly, this is another example of a society descending into anarchy – where each individual says “to hell with the rules, I am getting mine”.
That such conduct may inconvenience the rest of the community either does not occur to such criminals; or they decide to act illegally anyway, secure in the knowledge they will never be held to account. And, when you challenge them, they’re likely to say ’tsek and threaten violence.
Secondly, the phenomenon speaks to a profound lack of knowledge of either the practicalities of hail or, indeed, the rules of the road. Not surprising, in either case, given that just 40% of pupils pass matric and probably an even lower percentage of road users actually have valid licences.
That “to hell with everyone else” had echoes in the Clifton beach protest, when some whites spouted about property owners having the right to peace and quiet and that so beloved “security”… and then went on to defend the hundreds of illegal road closures in Joburg as being acceptable because they helped contain “crime”.
If illegally closing a road which is public property – or a beach for that matter – to protect the lifestyle of a tiny minority, is acceptable, then you have, along with the hail road blockers, long since lost your morality.
When you do something illegal, which negatively affects another person, then you are one of those helping to turn this country into a “failed state”.