For months, potholes have symbolised dysfunction in South Africa’s largest, richest city.
Pothole Patrol, launched on Monday, offers a glimpse of the way forward for Johannesburg and the country.
For months, potholes have symbolised dysfunction in South Africa’s largest, richest city. We have despaired at the growing list and the inability of the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) to cope.
Now, the arrival of sponsored “Jetpatcher” machinery has spawned hopes that the backlog of about 48 000 potholes is not insurmountable. We can visualise smooth driving in the not too distant future.
Discovery Insure and Dialdirect Insurance have partnered with JRA. And behind that lie the most important ingredients – the vision and attitude that say, this can be done, let’s do it.
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I have no idea to what extent Discovery chief executive officer (CEO) Adrian Gore has been involved. He wasn’t at Monday’s launch on William Nicol Drive, where Discovery Insure CEO Anton Ossip did the honours. But Pothole Patrol would be Gore’s style.
He is notoriously optimistic about South Africa. In March, announcing a programme for small and medium enterprises, he said it’s “time to invest in the country and probably one of the best moments to build something new”.
A top-class actuary, Gore understands more about facts, figures and trends than do most of us. But such folk are driven by more than number crunching. And the impetus to help make the situation better is not limited to high flyers.
In his new book, Future Tense, Tony Leon notes: “It’s always worth remembering that at moments of deepest peril the country has been rescued often by ordinary individuals doing extraordinary things.”
He makes similar comments about responses to Covid-19 lockdown, “a vast array of civil-society groups doing generous things at such a mean time”.
Indeed, on many community WhatsApp groups and elsewhere we see daily examples of people reaching out to help. Posts on a Joburg councillors’ group named Food Parcel Distribution reveal an astonishing volume of activity. So, too on various suburb groups.
There are so many people out there who are not only willing to help, but are actively doing so. Pothole Patrol is an example of that on a larger, more visible scale, with corporate executives using their influence to change the situation for the better.
This comparison may seem obvious to you, but it struck me forcibly while waiting to give the vote-of-thanks speech at Monday’s citywide launch, which was held in my ward. I urged corporates to consider also supporting community initiatives aimed at helping displaced people in the area.
“Africa’s richest square mile” attracts many hundreds of people who eke out a living as waste pickers and casual labourers, etc. If they are not better integrated, we are perpetuating apartheid social planning.
To the biblically minded, Sandton’s skyline can evoke Matthew chapter 5, verse 14: “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Executive confidence behind the shining lights on the Sandton hill can set an example for the more inclusive society we need for SA to prosper. Like our roads, our social fabric requires patching.
Let’s do it. Together.