Editor’s Comment – Patrick O’Leary
History records many occasions where one person or one incident acted as a catalyst for change through bringing about heightened awareness – some occurring by design, others by chance and many unwittingly. Who can ever forget the name Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon? “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” were his words as he took that historic step. And he was right. It was a giant leap for mankind bringing to many millions of people a new awareness of outer space and what it holds for mankind. Nowadays, there are herds of satellites flying around in space enabling us to watch the US Open and the Wimbledon finals on our TV screens as the action is happening thousands of miles away. A bunch of astronauts are probably sitting round a table having dinner on the moon as I write this and we are none the wiser. Armstrong’s deed was, by design, a carefully planned exploration that paid off.
Let’s take another example – penicillin. It was a guy by the name of Dr Alexander Fleming who was responsible for me recently getting over a horrible dose of bronchitis which turned into pneumonia. It knocked me badly and while on this point, I do apologise for being late over the past few weeks on some of the work I do. I was man down. However, thanks to Fleming, I am now up and running again albeit with a bit of a lingering cough brought on by the antibiotics failing to reach the areas where my Kent Special penetrates. Known as the ‘miracle drug’, penicillin was the first antibiotic known to man. Yet it was by chance that Fleming unwittingly discovered it when he came back from a holiday to find that a green mould called Pennicilium notatum had contaminated Petri dishes in his laboratory and were killing some of the bacteria he’d been growing. Boom! His legacy lives on.
There are also, unfortunately, extremely sad and tragic incidents that take place which serve to jar people’s awareness of problems. I think here of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistan girl who, at 15-years-old, was shot by a member of the Taliban when riding home on a bus after writing an exam. At that young age, she had already been an advocate for women’s rights, more specifically, for the right of girls to receive an education. That right changed for Malala and her friends when the Taliban took control of her town in Swat Valley in Pakistan. Many things were banned including that girls could no longer attend school. It was then that Malala – at only 11-years-old – started to talk out which led to her becoming a target for the Taliban. Her remarkable recovery from that gun-shot wound and the subsequent continuation of her work put her into the limelight and through her, the world’s attention was focused on what many countries took for granted, namely a young girl’s right to an education. It was Malala who awakened the world to the plight of millions of girls who never see the inside of a classroom.
Let’s now come closer to home. We in the trucking industry know how truck drivers have come under personal attack on the roads around South Africa. I’m not referring to the recent spate of high profile truck burnings. That is another issue. Rather, I’m talking about the ‘midnight’ attacks on drivers who stop alongside the road for a quick rest and end up being mugged and beaten up by marauding thugs. Or who are just driving along delivering the goods for South Africa and have rocks thrown at them. Yet, despite the high number of incidents, it has not attracted huge attention. Certainly not enough to see wide-spread action taken to minimise these risks. This changed on the morning of May 12th when a Time Link Cargo rig was driving on the N1 past De Doorns when suddenly a boulder smashed through the windscreen. The boulder was either thrown from or had been hung by rope from a bridge by a group of criminals. It hit the driver who then lost control of the vehicle and it rolled. His co-driver was trying to free him from where he was trapped between the seat and the steering wheel when a crowd of looters descended, some going for the cargo – R2,5-million worth of clothing – and others scrambling into the cab to loot what they could. In their frenzy of heartless greed, they didn’t help the driver. Instead, they trampled him to death. His co-driver thankfully escaped the mob. The driver’s name was Christopher Kgomo – a good and honest man who left behind a wife and two children. It was perhaps the heartless, cruel actions of the mob that caught the attention of the wider media and the story was carried far and wide. And now I get to my point.
What happened to Christopher Kgomo highlighted to a wider audience outside of the trucking fraternity the many dangers facing our truck drivers out on the road. In that sense, the death of Christopher Kgomo will not be in vain. We must not let his death be in vain. Rather, his name must represent the awakening of South Africa to the plight of the truck drivers of South Africa – and the determination to make the roads safer for all our drivers. The name Christopher Kgomo must now stand alongside Neil Armstrong, Dr Alexander Fleming and Malala Yousafzai as the person who acted as the catalyst for change – albeit in the most tragic way. The first three people lived to tell their tale.
Christopher didn’t. His death, however, told the tale. It is now up to each and every one of us to carry that forward. Not only do we owe that to him and his family but also to his friends and colleagues at Time Link Cargo and to all truck drivers around South Africa. His death must spur all in the industry to ensure such a tragic incident never happens again to any other driver. Christopher’s death served to awaken awareness of the plight of South Africa’s truck drivers. Let’s now act on that awareness and carry it forward to rid our roads of the heinous crimes committed against our truck drivers on a daily basis. Let the name Christopher Kgomo be the catalyst for change.