Driving Through Corruption: Navigating South Africa’s Dangerous Roads in a Broken System

Hello, my Freaky Darlings!

When everything is broken, is it inevitable that everyone becomes a criminal?

While driving to the day job on Thursday morning and avoiding another moron doing something stupid on the highway, I started thinking about why South Africa’s roads were considered the most dangerous in the world. It’s a sad truth that over 14,000 people die on our roads every year. And it’s no surprise when you consider the contributing factors. Safe, cheap, and easily accessible public transport doesn’t exist here, so people who probably shouldn’t be driving have no alternative if they want to get to work. We have mini-bus taxis that I don’t think you find anywhere else in the world. While they do fill a huge gap in our non-existent public transport industry and are cheap, they are by no means safe.

I still remember, as a child, watching a mini-bus taxi hurtling across the intersection, narrowly missing us, and a female passenger being flung out of the open door and bouncing on the tar while holding her screaming baby. The taxi industry is marred by gang-style violence on a daily basis. Most of the drivers don’t own their taxis, and the owners don’t seem to care about the maintenance of their vehicles as long as they’re on the roads, making them money. But this piece isn’t about the taxi industry, which may significantly contribute to our dangerous roads. It is not the main culprit. That distinction falls on rampant corruption.

Which brings me to my main question. In a failing system where everything is broken, and the only way to survive is for ordinary people to break the law, is it inevitable that everyone becomes a criminal?

Now, bear with me here. I’m getting to the point.

When I was learning to drive, you still had to actually study to get your learner’s license and pass a test and then, as in my case, go to a driving school or as with some of my friends whose parents felt up to the task their fathers would take them out after school and on weekends and teach them how to park and drive on the highway. All the things that we take for granted you’re supposed to be able to do when you get behind a steering wheel. But that is no longer the case in South Africa. These days, if you want to get a learner’s license, whether you studied for it or not, you have to pay a bribe. If you don’t pay that extra bit of cash on the side, you fail until you wake up and pay up. And when you go for your driver’s test, if you’ve paid the right guy the right amount, you don’t even have to prove you can actually drive. You get handed your license, and off you go.

Then we wonder why there are so many deaths on our roads when so many using those roads have no clue how to drive on them.

Then there’s the simple act of speeding, which is something most of us do unless you’re one of those who bought your license and are afraid of the road and drive extra slowly because … well, you’re scared of all those other cars rushing past you.

Don’t even get me started on how many times I’ve been driving along the highway in the fast lane only to have to slam on anchors and hope and pray the other guy behind me has excellent breaks because someone is going sixty in a 120-zone. But anyway … Back to speeding and that horrible moment when a traffic cop pulls you over for going 80 in a sixty-zone, but he tells you if you give him whatever you have in your wallet or an extra cool drink, he’ll let you go with a warning. Do you pay that bribe? If you do, you’re committing a crime. But these days, it’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Most of my friends have their own stories about bribing a cop to get out of a fine, and if you didn’t pay the bribe, you’re considered an idiot.

Then there are those scary situations where the cop won’t just take whatever’s in your wallet but insists that he goes with you to an ATM and wants you to draw whatever your limit allows you to. If you don’t, you get arrested and thrown into a cell with far worse criminals for the night, which none of us petty criminals want. So, you pay the bribe. It’s just easier and far less dangerous than the other alternative.

And that’s just one of the many failing systems in our crumbling society. As more and more of our systems become corrupted by the very people who were put in positions of power, is it any wonder that, to survive and make our way in our daily lives, ordinary people are being forced to commit crimes they wouldn’t ordinarily commit?

Is civil disobedience or breaking unjust laws, even when completely justified, a form of criminality? Civilians from all walks of life, across all aspects of society, are being forced to break the laws, whether in the name of fighting a corrupt government for the betterment of society or to survive.

Are we becoming a society of criminals? Or are we already there? Is being a criminal something we’ve all embraced in our Mafia state? Are we all, in some way, becoming accomplices in a system that perpetuates criminality?

Maybe it’s not a matter of whether we are becoming a society of criminals, but rather, whether we’ve been left with no choice but to navigate a complex moral landscape. The challenge lies in discerning when civil disobedience against unjust systems becomes a necessary act of resistance or a desperate measure for survival. As we hopefully strive for a brighter future, one free from the shadows of corruption, we need to confront this harsh reality and, together, find solutions that fix our society’s broken pieces. Otherwise, we’re lost on a road to nowhere.

One thought on “Driving Through Corruption: Navigating South Africa’s Dangerous Roads in a Broken System

  1. Pingback: Driving Corruption, Puzzling Zombies, Nightmarish Ogres, and Books Galore Await! | Joan De La Haye

Leave a Reply