Jack Bloom MPL
DA Leader Gauteng Legislature
Do top government politicians ever walk the streets? I don’t mean at election time when home visits will get votes.
But do they ever get out of their swanky vehicles and see what it is like for people who don’t own cars?
On a recent walk along pavements in Johannesburg I came across ten open manholes. Some of them were shallow, but enough to cause a nasty fall.
Others were life-threatening, as you could plunge deep into a storm-drain.
I shudder to think of people falling into them in the dark We know that metal covers are stolen, so the Johannesburg Council has come up with a non-metal alternative.
But they are very slow to replace missing covers.
My local councillor told me that she had reported these open manholes in July last year. Delays in this matter do not save the council money as they can be sued for negligence by an injured party.
Besides which, it is unconscionable to allow such risk to pedestrians.
If politicians walked on pavements more often I am sure they would fix their often shocking state.
The same goes for public hospitals and public schools.
They would never tolerate absent teachers or long hospital queues.
I am always amazed at how quickly people who have known poverty seem to lose empathy after acquiring political power.
I don’t begrudge a certain amount of luxury and status that goes with high political office. But there is really no need for Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane to drive a Mercedes ML63 AMG that costs R1.26 million.
This is at the upper limit of the Ministerial Handbook that allows a vehicle that is 70% of her R1 789 873 annual salary.
This is way too generous, and according to reports it will be revised downwards to 60 percent.
The Western Cape Government has a 40% limit, which is more appropriate in these straitened times.
Premier Helen Zille’s official car is a Mercedes C300 worth about R400 000, which is much less than this limit.
She sets a good personal example of restrained spending that filters throughout her administration.
Western Cape provincial ministers have also dispensed with the Blue Light cavalcades that blight other provinces.
Furthermore, they travel economy rather than business class on airline flights. Mokonyane justifies Blue Lights and high luxury spending by saying that it is permitted by national regulations.
But there is no reason why excessive privileges have to be exercised to the hilt. It would do a world of good if all politicians took a walk occasionally.
They should ponder not only the poor state of most pavements but how the world looks for people who do not feed off state money.
It would help them appreciate why the highway tolls are such an emotive issue.
People feel pushed to the limit by extra charges of one kind or another.
The toll protests by normally apathetic citizens are a welcome shift from passivity to civic activism.
The next step would be a shift in voting patterns to punish those responsible for the current mess.
Now that would get the attention of politicians who never walk but swish past in fancy cars.