Editor’s Comment by Patrick O’Leary
It was not more than 48 hours after our magnificent Springbok rugby team thrashed England to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup that we got news of three trucks being petrol bombed on the N3 near Vosloorus. The trucks were totally destroyed. That amazing moment when Springbok captain Siya Kolisi hosted the Webb Ellis trophy high was forgotten and I thought to myself: “Oh well, we’re back to our normal South Africa. No joy, no hope. Just destruction and on-going chaos.” I was so angry. Is there nothing sacred in this country any longer? Can we not be happy for just one or two days? The whole nation was ecstatic with celebrations still going on in every nook and cranny of the country – but not on the N3. There, people were intent on destruction rather than celebration; they were intent on breaking down rather than building up; on sowing seeds of division instead of unity. I immediately put a notice up on our Facebook page warning drivers to stay away from the area. It was a short note with pictures of the trucks burning: The time was 11.56pm on November 3rd. “Three trucks are burning on the N3 near Vosloorus. One was petrol bombed from a bridge. Avoid.” That was it. That post solicited some 42 750 views with various comments from operators, truck drivers – both local and foreign – and others. I did not comment in my post. I was too angry. I have learnt that when you’re angry, stay away from the pen until you calm down a bit. No, I merely wanted to warn of the danger in that area so that others could avoid it. I went to sleep that night thinking that while 57-million South Africans were celebrating, a handful were destroying – not only trucks but also hope.
The following morning I woke up determined not to let that incident spoil the new found unity and joy that South Africans so desperately needed and which the Springboks had catalysed through their wonderful World Cup win. I had put aside my anger and at 08h48 on Nov 4th, I posted pictures of the aftermath of the attacks – the burnt out shells of what the previous day were productive units carrying the goods of the country. On this post – headed “Let these petrol bombed trucks not destroy our hope” – I did comment. Here’s what I said: “I have never seen South Africa like this. We were playing for the people back home. We can achieve anything if we work together as one.” These were the words of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup to the ecstatic delight of all South Africans. It was obvious that his words were heard by the group of people who last night “worked together as one” to petrol bomb and totally destroy three trucks on the N3 near Vosloorus. Yes, I’m being sarcastic…..My message is that although these people destroyed the trucks, let their actions not destroy the hope brought on by the magnificent Springboks – as so well articulated by captain Siya Kolisi and coach Rassie Erasmus – that the South Africa envisaged by Mandela could still happen. These people may have destroyed these trucks, but let their actions not destroy the hope inspired by the Springboks and so desperately needed by this nation. Their actions have done nothing for their cause and nothing for the nation. All they succeeded in doing was to destroy assets, the economy and any sympathy or empathy for their cause. In that they succeeded. In everything else, they failed.” That post reached 37 230 views – again with various comments made.
Through all this, the words of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, came through loud and clear. “Since I’ve been alive, I have never seen South Africa like this. With all the challenges we are having, the coach (Rassie Erasmus) came and told us for the last game: ‘We’re not playing for ourselves any more. We’re playing for our people back home’. That’s what we wanted to do. We love you, South Africa, and we can achieve anything if we work together as one.” In the many congratulatory messages sent to the Bokke, one stood out for me. It was from that great man Desmond Tutu, a man who fought tireless against apartheid and racial segregation and who has always borne the best interests of all South Africans at heart. He wrote: “Our father, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, is smiling from the heavens today. Halala Siya Kolisi, treasure of the nation!” The Arch, as he is affectionately known to all, knew Nelson Mandela well and he would thus not have used his name in vain. He knew the great Madiba would be as thrilled at this win as he was at our 1995 win when, wearing a Springbok jersey, Madiba raised the William Webb Ellis trophy together with captain Francois Pienaar in what has been described as the most iconic image in the history of rugby World Cups. It was not only the win that mattered to Madiba. Rather it was the unity that the win brought to all South Africans. The vibrancy, the joy, the spirit of South Africans being together as one was stunning – and now with the 2019 win, the same spirit and unity was back after years of South Africans being pushed into the doldrums through the State Capture antics of many of our leading politicians. The country was alive and then there was one guy, the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi – just one guy – who threw a damp squid over the spirit in a Tweet he put out on November 2nd just after the win, where he wrote: “Congratulations to #SiyaKolisi…the rest go get your congratulations from Prince Harry.” If we didn’t know him as an EFF member, I would have thought that comment would have been from a bitter and disgruntled English rugby supporter. After all, we did thrash them proper. But no. It was from a leader in a South African political party. One of the traits of a good leader is to read the mood of the people. In this, Ndlozi failed magnificently. His was like a lone voice in the wilderness trying to grab the attention of, well, not sure who? Maybe himself. It was nasty and against the psyche of the nation. It was some kind of political points scoring totally out of sync with the mood of 57-million South Africans – well 57-million minus one, the one being himself. Strange coming from an educated man who obtained his PhD in Political Science from Wits University in 2017. So he’s actually a Dr Ndlozi but note, not in medicine, in Political Science, and that explains it. Even before the game he showed that he could not, as a leader, read the spirit of the nation when he wrote in response to a tweet by Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa wishing the Bokke well: “Aggg please, today is England vs. England. I mean during 2010 World Cup the settlers had both flags in their homes and cars. It’s a win win for them because they are still England at heart! You should be focused on removing apartheid statues.”
I’m sure all who are reading this will recall the 2010 Soccer World Cup where once again, sport united our nation as South Africa played host to what was described as one of the most successful Soccer World Cups ever held. Sure our own Bafana Bafana didn’t get very far – – although they did score the first goal of the tournament – but that didn’t quell the spirit of unity and camaraderie among all South Africans. It was invigorating. It was stunning. The Rainbow Nation, a phrase coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe post-apartheid South Africa after South Africa’s first fully democratic election in 1994, was alive and well, just as it is now. Unfortunately, it soon dissipated under the reign of, you guessed it – Jacob Zuma and his cronies who totally destroyed that spirit of unity. He destroyed the Rainbow Nation and we are now trying to climb out of the drek he and his ilk threw us into through their State Capture shenanigans. So are we going to let the politicians destroy the current spirit again with silly Tweets like Dr Ndlozi’s. Or are we going to build on what Kolisi said, namely: “We can achieve anything if we work together as one.” Certainly we are not naïve enough to believe that our World Cup win will solve all our problems. We are not naïve enough to believe that singing “Shosholoza” will be the cure-all for all our ailments but singing it together – as we all have been – could be the fuel to ignite us “working together as one”. By the way, to those people singing Shosholoza and are against foreign drivers, do you know that “Shosholoza” is a traditional miner’s song originally sung by groups of men from the Ndebele ethnic group that travelled by train from their homes in Zimbabwe to work in South Africa’s diamond and gold mines. Ouch! What a cruel irony. What is almost regarded as our second National Anthem comes from Zimbabwe.
Just as there are still many problems to solve on a national level, so too are there still many problems to solve in the trucking industry. I refer back to the attacks on those three trucks on the N3 on the night of November 3rd. Up to now – and despite many meetings being held going back to former Transport Minister Blade Nzimande – there has been no lasting and sustainable, peaceful solution to this particular problem. Am I being naïve in believing that by capturing the spirit of “working together as one” we can achieve such a solution. Or do we just ignore the spirit of unity brought on by the Springboks’ win and go back to our normal South Africa? I don’t believe we must leave it to the politicians. It’s been in their hands for ages – since last April when the first truck attacks took place at Mooi River and, with due respect, nothing has been solved. By “working together as one” within the industry, we can “achieve anything”. It’s worth a try. My fear is that the politicians will, as they have in the past, kill the spirit. We cannot allow that to happen. As Nelson Mandela said of HIV/AIDS: “It is in your hands.”