So here we are, clinging to shattered shards of hope trying desperately not to get swept away in the poisonous torrents of traducement that spew from the repulsive mouths of our lords of the lies and other vile merchants of mendacity. Our streets are full of toothless hags inventing tales of woe and the courts are packed with prevaricators of every shade. Churches reverberate to the sound of equivocating men fencing their own brand of truth while places of learning are overrun with pseudologists more suited to busking in subways. Parliament is overrun with wool-pulling fabulists and the papers are packed with shaggy dog stories.
Don’t believe what you see, read or hear. Don’t take anything at face value. Question everything and everyone, including the people with whom you live and work.
I saw a headline the other day that read, “Cops hunt for man who shot seven homeless people.” I didn’t read it because it’s full of trigger words, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this turned out to be the latest scheme by our unhinged social development minister to solve the homeless problem. Nothing is as it seems any more.
We are down the rabbit hole and things can only get curiouser from now until the ANC elects a new president in the party’s traditional orgiastic feeding frenzy of greed and expediency. It’s becoming way too crowded around the trough and old snouts will have to make way for the new. It’s not going to be a pretty sight. Keep the curtains drawn and the children indoors.
Parliament may try to ram home a fistful of ill-considered laws before they turn off the lights and go off to do constituency work. I did some of that earlier in the week and was tongued awake the next day by my neighbour’s Labrador. To be fair, I was in his basket. Exhausting stuff, constituency work.
Speaking of which, one of the more malevolent pieces of legislation tabled recently is the elegantly named Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. Amendments are meant to be good, right? We look to the glorious United States of America to set the standard here. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech and the press. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Eighth Amendment deals with excessive bail, fines and punishments that are forbidden. And so on. This gives the impression that amendments are good things. A tweaking of the laws so that the people might be better served and less oppressed.
Not here, buddy. When you hear the word ‘amendment’ in South Africa, you sell your house and get to the airport as quickly as possible. Leave your family. There’s no time.
And when the word ‘amendment’ appears in the same sentence as ‘road traffic offences’, you should know it’s not going to be a sensible amendment that encourages people to drive stoned because they are unable to go faster than 50km/h. Or an amendment that allows men to drink and drive if they are taller than 1.9m because we, I mean, they, can obviously hold their alcohol a lot better than a 1.5m teenage girl.
Instead of making good laws better, we’re making bad laws worse. This is in line with government thinking on pretty much everything, really. There is good news for some, though. Once implemented, the demerit system will enable traffic police to demand far bigger bribes since the stakes are so much higher. I’m happy for them. There’s no reason bribes shouldn’t at least keep pace with inflation.
In KwaZulu-Natal, traffic officers have already been trained “so that they can adapt to the new law”. Fair enough, although I would’ve thought it more important to train us, the general motoring public, who seem utterly unable to adapt to laws of any kind.
From what I can make out, the amendment is designed to reduce carnage on the roads in the most brutal way possible. On top of being fined, you will have points added to your licence. This sounds like a good thing. But if you go around boasting that you have 97 points on your licence, you’re doing it wrong. The higher your score, the more your chances of losing. It’s like golf, except you’re playing against Tiger Woods off his face on amphetamines.
Will the demerit system reduce the number of accidents on our roads? Of course not. I’m willing to wager that most crashes are caused by people not paying attention. The proliferation of cellphones, social media and infidelity has taken away our ability to concentrate for more than three minutes at a time. Accidents happen when our minds are elsewhere.
So the demerit system is not going to make drivers any less attention deficit. All it will do is take a vicious financial toll on motorists who activate speed traps, don’t use seatbelts and park in loading zones, all of which I do regularly without anyone getting hurt.
This is what Justice Project SA chairman Howard Dembovsky had to say about the amendment. “Something is terribly wrong here. This not only violates the constitution but the principles of the justice system.”
Here’s how it works. Do something naughty and you will receive an infringement notice ordering you to pay a fine. Ignore it and a month later you’ll get a “courtesy letter” – for which you will be charged – reminding you to pay up. Ignore that and 32 days later you’ll get an enforcement order notifying you of the number of demerit points against you and again ordering you to pay the fine plus the cost of the enforcement order. Until you pay, you won’t be able to renew your car’s licence disc. Ignore the enforcement order and a warrant of execution will be issued and the Sheriff will come to your house and take your stuff. This is a way of getting rid of the junk in your garage. He is also allowed to confiscate your licence, immobilise your car and report you to a credit bureau, after which you may wish to emigrate.
Let me tell you about the demerit system. You start off with zero points. Skip a stop sign, fail to renew the car’s licence or use your cellphone while driving and it’s a R500 fine plus one demerit point. Exceeding R100km/h in a 60km/h zone – which everyone does – will get you six demerit points and a fine. Drive with more than 0.05g of alcohol in your blood – which everyone does – will also see six points added to your licence. Plus a fine. You will then be stripped naked, given a light stoning by clerks from the finance department and, once the Alsatians have finished with you, banished from your village.
When you reach 12 points, the game is over and your driving licence is suspended for three months. One point is taken off if you behave yourself for three straight months. But get three suspensions and your licence is cancelled and destroyed. If you ever want to drive legally again, you will have to undergo a “rehabilitation” programme. That’s right. You’re going to rehab. And don’t expect any yummy methadone, either.
It doesn’t end there. Get out of rehab and it’s off to the tribunal. Do you know who else appears before tribunals? War criminals, that’s who. But you’re not a war criminal. War criminals aren’t expected to have their hearing repeatedly postponed because the photocopier is broken or their file is missing. War criminals aren’t expected to walk for three days to reach the tribunal because their licence has been suspended. You’re going to be wishing you were a war criminal by the time this is over.
If the tribunal decides that you have learnt from your mistakes – contrition is best shown by wearing sackcloth and lashing yourself with a cat ‘o nine tails – you will be able to apply for a learner’s licence. If you pass, you may take a driver’s test. I’m not making this up. They really think this is going to work.
Pregnant women apply for their unborn babies to write the K53 test in the hope that they’ll get an appointment by the time they turn 18. You get 12 points and lose your licence, you’ll be in a retirement home by the time you reach the front of the backlog .
The bill must now be adopted by the National Council of Provinces and signed into law by President Zuma. This is excellent news. Once Zuma starts applying his mind, all bets are off.