Thursday, January 28, 2010

Forget Julius Malema: Meet Chris Hlabisa

Veteran journalist, Jeremy Gordin, describes the circus act, known as Government. The article has been slightly trimmed, and it is hilarious; you can't make this stuff up either.

Church of Scotland Hospital chef Hluphile Elda Zuma, 53, is suing the provincial government - and in particular the transport MEC Willies "Wonker" Mchunu - for R1,1-million after she lost an arm in an accident when the taxi in which she was travelling hit a pothole on the R33 between Keates Drift and Tugela Ferry in December, 2004.

Apparently the minibus, having hit a pothole, overturned. The taxi driver could not avoid the pothole because of oncoming vehicles. Zuma was so badly hurt her arm had to be amputated below the elbow and, since the accident, she had lost her job and income, endured pain, and has have further medical treatment. She hoped for a bionic prosthesis, the court heard.

According to Sapa, a witness told the court that when he arrived at the scene, the minibus was upside down and the left ball-joint between the axle and chassis broken. He also said that several other vehicles had been damaged by the pothole, estimating it at 30cm to 35cm deep.

Now Zuma's legal representatives are not messing around. They called in a retired transportation professor to give evidence. He was apparently the only person able to see that the offending pothole should have been urgently repaired. The cost of repairing a large pothole is about 15 times greater than if it had been repaired when still small, Alex Visser (the ex-prof) explained.

Visser said this type of road defect developed over a long time, starting small, growing gradually over months, if not years. Pothole repair involved a standard procedure and was not difficult. Checks on road conditions should be done weekly, he said, and potholes reported at meetings. There you go; not so difficult, hey?

Moreover, the hole should have been repaired urgently as it was between two bends. Signs - ones warning drivers about it - should have been erected. The taxi driver had moved into the right lane to go round the pothole but swerved left again to avoid an oncoming vehicle. He hit the pothole and the taxi overturned.

The prof was on a roll. You see, Blade Nzimande knows what he's talking about when he stresses the importance of a university education.

This is fascinating stuff. Many of us have blown our tyres and lost our nifty rims on potholes in the beloved country. You just need to drive from Parkview to Melville in Johannesburg - or from the circle near the German school to Empire road - or, heavens to betsy, out of your driveway. But the story gets even better, much better.

Turns out, my brothers and sisters - as JG Zuma might say - that the mighty province of KZN spent R5,36-million tarring a section of lightly-used road past the country home of then provincial premier (and now transport minister) Sbu Ndebele. And Judge Jan Combrink and counsel in the case conducted an inspection in loco of the road past Ndebele's home. And the road past Ndebele's summer plek was used by about 20 vehicles a day, a man who lives close to the road told the court.

However, KZN neglected the maintenance of another busy, dangerous road, the court heard. And you know which road the province neglected, don't you? And oh yeah - earlier evidence indicated that the pothole on the busy road - the one that cost Zuma her arm and that was not repaired - could have been fixed for R500 when it was still small. (I think maybe it was the prof who explained that part.)

But the story gets top notch with the entrance of one Chris Hlabisa, the head of the KZN transport department. Hlabisa clearly puts the interests of the province first and foremost. And he, obviously a sensitive man, is hurt that people - such as Zuma (the armless woman, not the president) - are, as he put it, only interested in "ripping off the government" by suing the transport department for injuries and damage caused by potholes. Au contraire, he told an enterprising journalist, Bronwyn Gerretsen of the Independent group, people should be grateful they have roads on which to travel.

Hlabisa said that instead of realising that many of their fellow citizens did not have transport and roads, people were choosing to "milk the government".

"I think people are very unfair on the government," he said. "We are asking them why they are so inconsiderate. They know the roads have exceeded their life spans of 25 years, and they know that we haven't had significant funding towards improving the road network, but people still take us to the cleaners. People must work through their consciences and they must understand and go back to the basics and the realities of our country."

Both the provincial and national transport departments were inundated with litigation - he said - and it was causing "a lot of problems".

He cited the 2008 case of Pietermaritzburg advocate Allistair McIntosh, who sued the department for R100-million in compensation for injuries sustained in a cycling accident on the P164 Rosetta-Kamberg road, and was eventually awarded R15-million in damages.

Hlabisa said there were now queues of people with "overboard" claims at the department's doors. Some of the claims were for huge amounts and it was difficult for the department to win these cases, he said sadly.

"People must be considerate. All the claims are very high, they are ripping off the government ... and if our South African public takes us to the cleaners and for a ride, what about those people who have never had access to roads? We are trying to make ends meet for them, but now we have people who are going all out with an influx of claims. I don't know what they are up to," said Hlabisa.

Asked by the journalist to clarify whether "considerate" meant that people should only claim for the exact cost of damages suffered, or if they should not claim from the government at all, Hlabisa responded: "People in rural areas are still walking 30km to get to transport.

"There are people whose lives, when it rains, come to a complete standstill because they can't cross swollen rivers to get to schools and clinics ... Then you get people who hit a pothole and make a big noise.

"We are asking them why they are so inconsiderate. Don't they know where they are living? Don't they know that many people are still suffering because of the imbalances of the past and that they still have to carry coffins many kilometres to graveyards? I am very disappointed."

Hlabisa acknowledged that the road network needed rehabilitation but said the department needed more funding.

"It is a reality we are facing. We are limited in terms of resources ... There are two worlds in South Africa, the First World and the Third World, yet people are making a meal of it."

Are you following this? Some people are making a meal of the first and third worlds (with or without tomato sauce?); others have to carry coffins to graveyards; and yet people like Zuma, who merely lost her arm, job and a good deal more, are harassing the provincial government.

I mean, listen up: if anyone at Luthuli House has been concerned that something might happen - like, say, a road accident due to a pothole - to Julius Malema, they need worry no more. His replacement is the HOD at transport in KZN. The guy's a genius - he's wasted in transport, I say. Put him in the national executive committee.

Source: Politicsweb

3 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

How about using the MONEY that the government gets from car registrations towards upgrading roads? I'm just sayin....


Hell - how on earth did this terribly bad apartheid guys manage to built a lot of roads in the first place and also to maintain them to a very large degree?
Spot the difference !

Anonymous said...

I'll bet that the one armed Zuma voted ANC every time.
You get what you pay for.