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Sherlock Holmes got stuffed in SA


A year or so ago, I watched the first episode of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s new Sherlock series. I was bowled over by the acting prowess of Benedict Cumberbatch, the young man selected to breathe new life into the ageing character. I’ve been following his career ever since and was pleasantly surprised to hear that he was the celebrity guest on a recent episode of Top Gear. I simply couldn’t wait the two weeks to see it on South African television, so I cheated a bit and found the interview on YouTube.

During the interview, it came to light that Benedict was the first person on the show who had been a victim of a carjacking. I was surprised to hear that this unsavoury practice also transpires in Europe, but then it occurred to me that the following sentence might contain the words ‘South’ and ‘Africa.’ “Please say it isn’t so, Benedict,” I thought to myself.

As is turned out, Benedict had been jacked in South Africa. I wanted to crawl under my desk and die of the shame I felt. Here, on the world’s biggest television show, was a man (rightfully) talking smack about my beloved country. You can’t really blame him, can you? He was nice enough to have his holiday in our beautiful country and we rewarded him by stuffing him in the boot of his car and taking all his stuff.

What hurts even more is the fact that he was extremely nice about it on television. If something like that happened to me in a foreign country, I would never go back. Benedict, however, said that he thought South Africa was lovely and he hoped he hadn’t put anybody off it.

  I’m just glad the Top Gear researchers didn’t delve deeper into South African motoring topics, because, last week, they could have had at least another 30 minutes’ worth of blunders to laugh at.

  The illumination issue on the R21 is a prime example. Night-time motorists currently have to negotiate the R21 without the help of lights, which in itself really isn’t a big issue since a roadworthy car is supposed to have headlamps, but it’s the reason behind the darkness that really gets me. It seems nobody knows who’s supposed to pay the bill to keep the lights on. The local district says it’s supposed to be paid by Sanral, while Sanral says it’s supposed to be paid by the local district. Is it just me, or could this problem be sorted out by nothing more than a simple phone call?  

The most embarrassing issue, however, is the registered-fines disaster. By now, all of us are supposed to know the basics of the Aarto traffic fine system: you get a fine via registered post and you pay it or ignore it as so many South Africans tend to do. Brilliant system, except for one thing - there’s no money left to pay for registered letters and the law forbids fines via normal snail mail. What a pickle.  

Then you have the biggest fiasco of them all: e-tolling. It’s enough material to keep any decent comedian in business for at least another year.

I think I know where the problem lies. In my humble opinion, it goes all the way to the top, where there seems to be no consistency whatsoever.

The president has reshuffled his cabinet and we have a new minister of transport, Dipuo Peters. It’s the third minister in as many years. I’ve read the new minister’s CV and she undoubtedly has the necessary skills to iron out a few motoring-related issues. I’m also aware that a few people are negative about her appointment, but I think we should give her the benefit of the doubt.

I’m not sure what she’ll be able to do in the few short months left in this current term, but I for one am cautiously optimistic. I just hope this new appointment doesn’t cause more unnecessary delays, because the Ministry for Transport needs some desperate attention and it needs it right away.

While on the subject of the short time left for the current cabinet, I think it’s worth exploring options to ensure those who take over the reins do a better job next time round. The solution, I think, lies with that most sacred of political perks: the company car.

I’ve poked fun at politicians and their cars many times before, but it is a relevant topic, especially with elections around the corner. I agree that a person deserves a nice car if they work hard, so why not hand out company cars on a merit system?

I propose all ministers start out with something small, cheap and cheerful like the Fiat Panda. Do a good job after a year and you get a Kia Rio sedan. If the year after that is equally successful, you get a 3 Series. Keep on doing a good job and you’ll be rolling around in a luxurious E-Class in year four.

And it works both ways: do a bad job and you get downgraded to a 10-year-old run-down CitiGolf. I think it’s a nice incentive to keep on fighting the good fight. You certainly don’t want to be downgraded all the way to a pair of rollerblades…

In all seriousness, I hope the new minister is as good as I’m hoping she is. Send a mail to with your thoughts on the subject.

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