It’s not getting bad out there. It is bad out there. I refer to the crime situation in the country which is affecting more and more people as we go along – and I don’t mean only physically as per the normal South African violence. You know, stuff like being shot by armed robbers in your home or business, having your face smashed to a pulp with a hammer; having your body burnt with a hot iron. That’s the normal sort of physical stuff that innocent people are subjected to. Excuse my sarcasm. I know this is all serious stuff but I’m just so peeved off. What has also got extremely serious – and is not often taken fully into consideration – is the mental and emotional strain all this is having on the average, honest South African who is trying to go about his or her daily task of making a living, raising kids, providing those same kids with a decent and safe home, mixing with friends. You know, the sort of normal things that normal people do. With crime having spiralled out of control in this country, there is no normality anymore. People are scared and this mental anguish is taking its toll on all sectors of society. It is causing stress, anxiety and fear. It is, in fact, causing mental havoc among the general population and this is not how South Africans should be living. Mental anguish is not the foundation on which to grow a nation. Take as an example a dear lady friend of mine. She is a gentle soul who does a great job at her work and is happily married with lovely kids. How does she feel? “All this is really scaring me. I know it can be fixed but I don’t know how. We’re not planning to emigrate but I cannot believe how many of my friends have already emigrated – or are planning to do so. This also makes me scared because our circle of friends is getting smaller and smaller. Are we going to be the only ones left in that circle,” she asks. Friendships are treasures in the circle of life and too many friends are visiting OR Tambo to wave goodbye to life-long friends who are leaving.
I’m not sure how ladies treat strangers when they go to a public loo but when guys walk in and find themselves standing next to each other at the trough, they talk. They become mates. Just yesterday I stopped at a garage to pop into the loo and found myself next to a gentleman who had just heard about a hijacking and shooting incident in the Northcliff area where one person was shot dead. I knew about it but he wanted to talk so he told me his version and then added: “It’s got totally out of hand. The country is in a huge mess and we’re all living scared,” he said. As we chatted, he told me that the daily ritual for his wife’s home-coming after work was to be met at the gate by their local security company to ensure she gets through the gates without being hijacked or attacked in any way. “The way we are all living is madness. It’s crazy.’ The hijacking incident he was referring to took place on the same morning that yet another Cash-in-Transit heist took place on the East Rand. One innocent lady in a taxi – no doubt on her way to work – got hit by a bullet and was in a serious condition when the paramedics arrived. This was on the same morning that taxi violence flared up in the Pretoria CBD which resulted in five taxi drivers being shot and wounded. And that’s only three incidents in one morning. There were many others across the country on the same day.
Coming closer to our industry, truck drivers are particularly vulnerable out there on their own and especially when it comes to being caught up in the numerous violent protests – mainly staged by local communities around the lack of service delivery – now seen on a daily basis all around the country. When a truck comes around the corner into the face of such a protest, the driver cannot do a quick U-turn or reverse as to get away. Cars can do that. Trucks can’t. As such, the truck becomes an easy target for the ‘protestors’ to vent their anger. We have seen this countless times and it is a terrifying situation for any truck driver. The best thing he can do if encircled by angry protestors brandishing rocks and petrol bombs is to leave the truck and get out of harm’s way. Personal safety comes first – always. The truck does not have a family waiting at home for its safe return. The driver does. All this is also having a terrible effect on our industry. Apart from the monetary loss of assets when trucks are burnt or damaged, we are also losing valuable and scarce skills. One truck driver – a good friend of mine – has left the profession after 15 years of driving. He loved being a truck driver and was a true professional. One of the reasons he stepped out of his cab for the final time was because he wants to see his two young daughters grow up. He wants to be there to one day walk them down the aisle – and the way things have developed on the roads, he wasn’t sure he would live long enough to do that. And it wasn’t just the crime. There was also a strong road safety input into his decision to get off the long-haul road. “There are just too many untrained drivers and unroadworthy vehicles operating out there and I just can’t risk my life by sharing the roads with them anymore,” he told me at the time.
So where to from here? There is no quick or easy answer as a lot of what we are experiencing can be put down to Zuma’s legacy of chaos – and that’s going to take a while to fix for he was thorough in the destruction of this country. What I do think what would help tremendously is if politicians would start paying attention to the country as a whole rather than trying to garner votes for their individual parties in next year’s elections. South Africa is not about the ANC, the EFF, the DA or any other individual political party. It is about the country as a whole. It’s amazing that none of the politicians see that. If they did, they would be uniting the country rather than dividing it as many of them are.