Imagine getting rid of the blue light brigade, and Ramaphosa and his ministers cycle to Parliament every day

Imagine getting rid of the blue light brigade, and Ramaphosa and his ministers cycle to Parliament every day
A VIP Protection Unit assaults motorists on the highway in Johannesburg. (Photo: Screengrab) | Gas cylinders confiscated from the scene of a gas leak at Angelo informal settlement in Boksburg on 5 July 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla) | Emergency personnel and police at the scene of a gas leak which claimed the lives of 17 people on 5 July 2023 at the Angelo informal settlement in Boksburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla) | Holocaust survivor Ella Blumenthal. (Still image from I Am Here by Jordy Sank)

Between the stories that encapsulate the paucity of care and the horrors of inequality in our country, there’s some cheer for those bearing the cold weight of winter cynicism.

Dear DM168 reader,

How are you doing? Are you feeling like life is a daily drudge and not worth getting out of bed for, or are you like 102-year-old Holocaust survivor Ella Blumenthal, who believes that life is beautiful.

If you did not get last week’s newspaper in which this tenacious Capetonian centenarian shared her life story with Carmen Clegg, and you are feeling like hope is a helium balloon popped by a nasty bully at your child or grandchild’s birthday party, here’s a reminder of some words of wisdom from Ella that I took to heart.

“The world is so beautiful. If you look up now, can you believe what a beautiful sunset it is? We see all the birds flying freely, we must realise life is beautiful; no, it is more than beautiful; it is gorgeous. We must try to enjoy every minute of it.”

Lessons in living from a Holocaust survivor

What kept Ella going despite the horror of 23 members of her family slaughtered in Nazi death camps? 

“The love of life has kept me going; these are holy words,” she said.

Wow! How beautiful is that?

We have so many words that we journalists, politicians, priests, PR agents, academics, business mavens, con artists and creeps make a living out of, but let’s face it, very few words are truly holy.

Holy is an adjective that Christians might want to argue only belongs to the contents of the Bible, but it is so much more than that. It is all-encompassing of believers or non-believers, the faithful of all faiths or atheists.

According to, the adjective holy comes from the Old English word hālig and is related to the German word heilig, meaning “blessed”. 

Holy is connected to whole, that which keeps us together, in body and spirit, mentally and physically. 

If we did a content analysis of South African conversations on comment forums on websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp, I bet we’d find a lot of words, but very few that make us whole. 

You will find lies parading as truth, attention-seeking, self-promotion, bragging, bitterness, snarkiness, jealousy, anxiety, fear, duplicity, narcissism, competitiveness, bigotry, racism, homophobia and xenophobia strewn among words of genuine, deep concern for each other.

Zama zamas and politicians’ ego-serving blue light brigades

There are two stories that made the news this week that, for me, encapsulate the paucity of care and the horrors of inequality in our country. 

The worst is the tragic loss of 17 people who died in the Angelo informal settlement following a gas leak linked to large-scale illegal mining in the area. 

The other was the viral video on Twitter of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s VIP goons boxing in a car, smashing its window, pointing firearms, and kicking and stomping on young men who turned out to be SANDF trainee soldiers. 

Imagine how much could be spent on solving the housing problem and the zama zama problem if all our politicians and traditional leaders had to ride bicycles to work.

The many dangers of illegal mining, by zama zamas, as they are commonly known, are harming the most vulnerable and need to be addressed by the government and mining companies in collaboration with communities.

The blue light brigades are just another accoutrement of arrogance for politicians. Former police commissioner General Khehla Sithole admitted in Parliament that in 2017/18, for every politician protected, there are 81 officers assigned. 

While we citizens are robbed, raped, hijacked and swindled left, right and centre, and the police stations that are meant to serve us are understaffed, it is beyond ludicrous that self-serving politicians should have so many police assigned for their protection.

Lots of positive stories to read in this week’s DM168

This week, Marianne Thamm reveals just how ludicrous our South African politicians’ VIP protection ego-boosting waste of taxpayer money is when she shows how several female presidents and prime ministers in charge of countries bigger than ours eschew VIP protection, with some even cycling to work every day. The government you see is meant to be a service, not a status symbol. Imagine how much could be spent on solving the housing problem and the zama zama problem if all our politicians and traditional leaders had to ride bicycles to work instead of the luxury imported cars that we, the taxpayers, pay for?

Our lead story should bring a sprinkling of cheer to those who are feeling a bit chilled by winter cynicism.

Business writer Ed Stoddard caught up with CEO of mining company Sibanye-Stillwater Neal Froneman to find out how the business-government partnership stream tackling crime and security is progressing. 

Froneman is no fairytale spinner, so you will all be pleased to read about some very positive strides that have been made to curb the criminals who are costing us R1-trillion a year.

In addition to this little spark of light in the darkness, I have tried to curate for you many more glimpses into moments of life in our country that are truly beautiful. 

A counterpoint to the greed and arrogance. A touch of the sacred and holy. Which, as my local heroine, dear Ella Blumenthal, says, we always need.

Let me know how you are doing by writing to me at [email protected]

Yours in defence of truth and a beautiful life,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • William Stucke says:

    Thank you Heather.

  • harrypoortman001 says:

    Dutch prime minister Rutte cycles to his parlement daily…no protection on sight.
    Same for all politicians, unless an objective confirmed threat need to be encountered.
    If you have nothing to fear, no protection needed.
    Without fear your view opens the window to how beautiful nature and how beautiful life is.
    To correct history that took a wrong turnoff, you have to go all the way back to that very turnoff.
    Or: stop, acknowledge that you are lost, and ask for help! Any politician? Enough intelligent pathfinders that can assist in getting you out of this wilderness, back into the beauty of nature and life! The alternative? Stay lost and get more lost!

  • William Dryden says:

    Great article, pity that most of politicians do not read DM (or can’t read) they are so involved in trying to fly under the radar of corruption.

  • Hilary Wilson says:

    A much appreciated tribute to Ella and succinct account of the woeful state of SA. Best wishes to you both.

  • Peter Lor says:

    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (who heads a right-of-centre, pro-business party) was pictured on TV news last night leaving the King’s Palace driving his own car, a mid-range, family sized station wagon or SUV, as far as I could see. No posh black Merc or BMW, no chauffeur, no blue lights. And we still want handouts from the EU…

  • kkeely says:

    Yes! Great idea! How about politicians being paid the same as teachers and nurses and doing the job out of love for their country. How about with the money saved, teachers, policemen and nurses get better pay. If we get politicians who want to do the job as a service to others, and earn a modest salary, then none of these greedy, corrupt, self-serving people in power will apply for the job… Problems solved.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Other than the President, all other politicians should have one budget priced car and no protection services. This would save a tremendous amount of money which can be used for people who really help the country and its citizens. There is so much good in our country which can als be supported

  • Lesley Young says:

    They have lost the plot! They are public SERVANTS! Not public bosses!

  • Viv Hart says:

    Not only the Dutch Prime Minister cycles to work, but the Dutch King Willem Alexander also cycles to the Office, with no Men in Black surrounding him.

  • John Buchan says:

    Years of snuffling at the trough has left most to heavy to get onto a bike.

  • warwick.ham says:

    Please put them fat b@#$%@#&$ on bicycles!

  • P B M .. says:

    The way the ANC waste taxpayers money without a tinge of conscience just proves how ill-equipped they are to run any organization. They just don’t have the mental capacity to do anything properly. It’s it their genes. And they constantly harp on about colonialism. But they continually strive to be ‘westernised’ in their dress, their possessions and much more. So ja, the more things change, as they say, the more they stay the same in this cowntree.

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