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Gauteng’s long drive to nowhere — for whom the bell (e-)tolls

Gauteng’s long drive to nowhere — for whom the bell (e-)tolls
A view of e-toll gantries in Johannesburg, South Africa. 8 December 2021. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

In the land of the good old ANC, epic failures are clearly cause for celebration. 

It wouldn’t be surprising to wake up one day to news that our capable visionary leaders in the Gauteng provincial government have added a new public holiday to our already holiday-heavy calendar.

I’m bracing myself for an e-Tolls Day after what happened on a Joburg highway one recent cold night: politicians celebrating the end of e-tolls like university students popping champagne for failing a crucial exam.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Straight Outa E-tolls — important lessons from the first taxpayer revolt in democratic SA

Look, we have more than enough public holidays as it is. But that doesn’t mean one minds an extra day of lazing around and spending time in the kitchen experimenting with different recipes like the saltless chicken à la Cyril or fizzy Panya-Panya pudding.

I guess with the ANC’s track record of epic failures, we might as well brace ourselves for more such celebrations and probably public holidays such as Life Esidimeni Day, Marikana massacre Day, Potholes Day, Poor Service Delivery Day and Load Shedding Week.

In fact, the sham celebration of the end of e-tolls reminded me of the Guinness World Records’ list of Stupidest Records.

These include such bizarre things as the world’s hardest kick in the groin, cycling 60km backward in five hours while playing a violin, covering one’s face with 43 snails, most eggs crushed with the head and most people brushing their teeth at the same time.

Surely there are more notable things to celebrate by way of records? Like baas John Steenhuisen declaring the Western Cape a no-go area for the likes of ANC politicians who want to go and campaign there.

On reflection, especially after the e-tolls spectacle and the shutdown party by ANC cadres in Jozi, one has sympathy for ou Steen. I mean, what if the ANC wins the Western Cape and decides, in its wisdom, to toll Table Mountain and the pristine beaches of Camps Bay? Madam Helen Zille would choke on her melktert.

But let’s be honest. What exactly is the difference between these ANC cadres who celebrated the scrapping of e-tolls and someone who took part in a contest for the hardest kick in the groin?

Read more in Daily Maverick: Government officially scraps disastrous e-toll system

If a five-year-old child with an average IQ were given the lowdown on this entire e-toll saga, they too would question the intelligence of the ANC celebrating a defeat by a resilient public.

It’s like arriving in an area where people have lived for years and built their homes on stable ground and you decide to build an estate on dolomitic land.

All types of people — experts, ordinary people, civic organisations — advise you against building there because of the risks involved and because no one will want to buy a home there due to the risks involved.

They even take you to court to save you from yourself, but you persist. Then, after 10 years, when no one has bought any of the houses you have built and you have lost a lot of money, you shut down the project.

Not only that, you even choose to make a great spectacle of your project having failed dismally and you expect those people who warned you against going ahead to celebrate with you and hail you as a hero for finally realising you were just like a zama zama going underground in an old gold mine without a light.

This actually reminds me of a similar spectacle years ago when ANC leaders carried shoulder-high one of their comrades, Tony Yengeni — who had been convicted for misleading Parliament — to jail to begin serving his sentence.

If you didn’t know better back then, you would have been forgiven for thinking the comrades carrying their convicted cadre to jail were celebrating an earth-shattering milestone that would positively impact the lives of those they call “our people” whenever they take to public platforms.

In case you may not have been following the e-toll saga, one Ray Mahlaka captured the essence of this epic failure aptly in the pages of this very publication just a few weeks ago.

Read more in Daily Maverick: E-tolls will soon be gone but a massive financial headache remains for the Gauteng government

Mahlaka explained that e-tolls have resulted in the system accumulating more than R9-billion in uncollectable debt from motorists who have refused to pay their toll fees since 2013.

He further went on to explain that “this uncollectable debt, and money forked out by Sanral to maintain the tolling system, has to be paid by someone. And all indications are that the Gauteng government will have to cough up.”

So in essence the ANC leaders in Gauteng were celebrating the fact that the government they lead now faces this humongous debt it has to service. And listening to them speaking on this issue, it doesn’t look like they have any idea, any clue as to how this debt will be serviced, or by whom.

Perhaps we can expect better clarity after the election. Well, depending on how many voters decide to entrust them with their votes on 29 May.

But this breaks such new low levels of stupidity that I wonder if the guys at the Guinness World Records would even consider this matter for their dubious list. Absolutely unstylish… DM

Mr Styles is the former president of the Organisation for Stylish People of South Africa (Osposa). He is against anything and anyone unstylish.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.


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