William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

Stadium deaths spotlight ANC dysfunctionality

Many will agree that the death of 34 miners in a hail of police gunfire at Marikana in August last year was a disastrous indicator of the African National Congress’ governance failures. A competent, modern administration does not mow down its citizens en masse.

Nor does it run them to death. In an incident that has received only a fraction of the publicity it merits, probably because it occurred during that lacuna in public consciousness that occurs between Christmas and New Year, seven young job applicants collapsed and died during a suitability test conducted by the KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI).

They were part of a group of about 35 000 from all around the province, who gathered in Pietermaritzburg after being “shortlisted” out of 150 000 applicants for 90 traffic officer posts. It now transpires that many of those shortlisted did not even meet the minimum requirement of having a driver’s licence.

The test was to complete a 4km run in under 30 minutes, conducted in Pietermaritzburg’s sweltering December heat and humidity with temperatures ranging between 35-40°C. There were no watering points and, in fact, there was very little drinking water at all in the Harry Gwala stadium – official capacity of 10 000 – where the two tranches of 17 500 applicants at a time, were assembled for testing.

It was during the first day’s test, Thursday December 27, that the seven died, after collapsing in the extreme conditions. An eighth man, upon hearing that he had failed to meet the qualifying time for the test, went home and committed suicide.

Bizarrely, despite these disastrous events, the RTI, undeterred, went ahead the next day with the second group, the only change being that they had to sign an indemnity form. Fortunately, there were no fatalities on the Friday, although about 230 people were hospitalised over the course of the two days.

Let’s leave aside for the moment that an inspectorate staffed with more than its fair share of lard-arses uses a 4km run in gruelling conditions to grade the suitability of applicants. One doubts that more than 20% of the present RTI staff complement could pass that hurdle, judging by the wheezing fatties one sees straining the suspension of their KZN cruisers.

Marikana and the Harry Gwala Stadium are sides to a coin. At Marikana the desperate, working poor expired at the hands of the police. At the Harry Gwala Stadium the desperate, unemployed poor expired at the hands of the road traffic police.

One set of deaths was caused by deliberate gunfire, the second set by inadvertent incompetence. Nevertheless, when a government causes the mass expiry of its citizens, the reasonable expectation in a democracy is that those in charge will fall on their swords or be put to the sword.

But apparently none of what happened at the Harry Gwala Stadium is anyone’s fault. The transport, community safety and liaison MEC, Willies Mchunu, protests that no blame should attach to him. No officials have resigned or been suspended. The grieving families are placated with the assurance of an “internal inquiry”.

The roots of this shifty evasion of responsibility, which has become a defining characteristic of this ANC administration, lies in the organisation’s tradition of collective leadership. It is an ANC myth that the ongoing national revolution is driven by the grassroots – that comrade leaders do no more than voice the decisions of the collective.

With collective decision making there comes an inevitable dilution of personal responsibility. If everyone is responsible, then no one as an individual is truly responsible. No one carries the can. Not for Marikana. Not for the events at Harry Gwala Stadium.

The ruthless, blood-stained Stalinist after whom the stadium is named would approve.

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    • ‘whiteness’

      ‘These two tragedies are definitely the fault of apartheid, colonialism, white people, and white corporate giants.’ – said with tongue in cheek, but that is where some Thoughtleader debate appears to be right now.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      Its an old apartheid/Nazi propaganda tactic to repeat these outrageous accusations repeatedly hoping it would somehow be believed by someone! In previous blogs you blamed President Zuma for the Marikana massacre and in another the police! I suppose you’d fabricate and speculate on just about anything just to deflect of the real culprits that set the stage for this tragedy – LONMIN MANAGEMENT! You still remain strangely silent on the Lonmin’s CEO sudden mysterious hospitalization, the very day of the massacre and the role of Lonmin management in feeding the rivalry between unions resulting in numerous violent confrontations.

      Similarly, NOBODY could predict the sudden soaring temperatures in “Pietermaritzburg” – God I hope they change that name soon!

      You also lack the decency of waiting for the commission to complete their work and now blaming the weather on the government shows how brazen you are in peddling your DA politics – another vile white practice!

    • Rich Brauer

      “Similarly, NOBODY could predict the sudden soaring temperatures in “Pietermaritzburg” ”

      In December, no one thought that it would be really hot and humid in Pietermaritzburg. OK, Dave.

      But no worries — I’m sure those 7 dead and hundreds hospitalized were all Beneficiaries of Apartheid, one way or another. Or something.

      So let’s not concern ourselves that the purported protectors of the people, the police, allowed 7 people to die desperately attempting to get a job. After all, it does lower the unemployment level.

      Vile practices, indeed.

    • Anne Coventry

      You really have to be a fool not to be able to predict the weather in Pietermaritzburg during December – as anyone with an iota of intelligence who has been there during this period knows perfectly well. Weather forecasts also predicted what the temperatures would be – I know, because I avoided the area during this time, because, thanks to the internet and the SABC, I WAS able to predict the soaring temperatures.

      To ‘organise’ such an event, with such a large number of people, and not make arrangements for water or medical support, (even if you were stupid enough not to be able to predict the weather) is utterly unforgivable, and criminal. It’s disturbing to think that, in yet another area of government, we have such incompetents in charge.

    • Graham

      What? It gets hot in Pietermarizburg in December? Since when?

    • AK

      The newspapers should adapt a different strategy if their aim, as we all know it is, to destroy the leadership of the ANC. You may have written this article with the usual trying-to stimulate debate guise, however underlying all this is a very sinister ploy to sow mistrust in the populace and instigate a regime change. Whatever ills the ANC has, nothing will ever make us to change them for the liberal /conservative leadership of the past

    • chacho

      To attribute the fatalities to government incompetence is intellectually dishones and racially motivated. The white population’s obsession with alleged ANC incompetence is a scandal.

      In view of the countless attrocities committed in broad daylight by the apartheid regime, people like William Saunderson-Meyer should be hiding their heads in shame firstly, for the blatant acts of state terrorism by their apartheid forebears and secondly, for being complicity in those acts, and thirdly, for being direct beneficiaries of the apartheid monster.

      Where were you, Mr William Saunderson-Meyer, when students were butchered in Sharpville?

    • Charlotte

      It is so convenient and so simple: Virtually every week a blog appears by WSM .

      …Which means that Dave Harris – besides reeling off his routine ‘apartheid, whites, colonisalists, the DA’ and attempts at popularising ’BOE’ (more aptly ‘Brothers of Execration’ in describing his ANC compatriots) – can also have a regular ‘go’ at a real live person to ‘blame’ for the shocking atrocities, ineptititude, thievery, brutality, arrogance and sheer, gross stupidity of the ‘lard-arses’ (so descriptive!) in the ANC; no matter how they screw up, no matter what their mismanagement, incompetence, bumbling, bungling and messes have been.

      Doesn’t Dave Parrot ever get sick of repeating himself? Anyway,who’s mind is he changing?
      Anyone with half a brain knows what the ANC (Arrogance, Nepotism, Corruption) is doing. Were a modicum of gratitude given for the civilisation brought to this country by white settlers, it would finally show some sense.

      Btw. doesn’t the ANC present itself to be supposedly ‘non-racist’?
      How can Dave H, as the biggest lauder of the ‘lard-arses’, also be the biggest loudmouthed racist and white hater?
      Seriously, who is he trying to convince?
      If CWOT were the codeword for ‘Complete Waste of Time’, DH is a FWOT. .

    • Supplice

      Dave Harris calling on the almighty? Seems like this poisonous, arrogant individual should rather call on other, darker and more sinister forces, more appropriate to the inherent nature of the supplicant, and more in tune with his own character.

    • Benzo

      Any organisation in need of a selection process will look at the ultimate “need”: finding 90 suitable candidates for positions which -I assume- were well described in terms of qualifications…mental, physical, intelligence, age and -off course- race.

      Using the physical requirement as a first, as expected- would be the easy and most efficient way. Putting 35000 people through this test for 90 positions, seems a little bit of an overkill.
      Having seen some TV images, I could have slected on sight only the candidates who could not make it from the size of their behinds. After all: 4 km in 30 minutes is just a little over army marching speed (7.5 km/hr) and does not classify as running. The comrades winners do around 90km in 5+ hours = 18km/hr over roughly 22 times the distance.
      Yes, they do have water.

    • Balt Verhagen

      Dear William

      We all owe you a debt of gratitude for reminding us of a horriffic Christmas incident that had already, and shamefully, largely left my consciousness – and doubtless many others’. This is what a blog site such as ThoughtLeader should be about: to maintain awareness of what is happening around us – and, more importantly perhaps, what is happening inside us. This is another example of the complete antithesis of the much-vaunted and by now hollowed out supposedly special African quality of ubuntu, of how the vulnerable and powerless suffer through the ‘insolence of office’.

      Seven people died and hundreds others had to be treated for heat exhaustion in the Harry Gwala stadium. One committed suicide. Effectively, the number of suicides is eight. So desperate was their plight that they drove themselves to death – to compete for 90 jobs. The numbers alone are horrendous: 150 000 applicants; 35 000 shortlisted; 17 500 packed into a stadium designed for 10 000. The overwhelming need for jobs in itself is an indictment of a dysfunctional economic system. Applying such a stringent test to people on a competitive basis without any indication of prior fitness bespeaks a complete absence of the most rudimentary sense of ubuntu. Literally, the survival of the fittest. Who of those reading this blog can maintain a running speed of 8 km per hour for 30 minutes?

    • Balt Verhagen


      Ah! but we care, we have instituted a commission of enquiry! As was done after the Marikana massacre – that most convenient and slick way of letting time cauterise the national conscience. Allow the impetus and funds for such a lengthy process to dry up, The powerful represented and financially backed by the state, those aggrieved and impoverished having to scrape for financing, forcing a less than satisfactory conclusion – for the vulnerable and downtrodden.

      We ultimately do NOT care. The once-inspiring ruling party has indeed become dysfunctional, but in the process we have collectively developed a deep-rooted insensitivity to suffering. An inclusive and caring society was the promise of 1994. Instead, we are back to the us and them of old, Mbeki’s two economies. ‘The system’ continues to serve the first.

      Finally – and once again, a plea to those who submit comments to simply ignore the imbedded professional party propagandist. He has been able to seriously devalue the tone and content of this site with inane red herrings. He will never get sick of repeating his inanities. Do not rise to the bait. Let him quietly reap the spoils of his efforts; do not add value to them

    • Just a thought

      @dave Harris.

      Thanks for the 2013 rant. I’m sure we will see many more that make no sense. perhaps if you want PMB’s name changed you shouldn’t pray to a god that was more thank likely brought to your private continent by that devilish white man. Sort of takes the sting out of your argument doesn’t it. Rather pray to your ancestors…

      So carry on blaming lonmin management because we all know it is their fault that workers got pissed off with them paying wages in line with your (in)fallible government’s policies.

      I agree that workers are paid way too little, but why then don’t the ANC set the minimum wage higher. perhaps it’s because they only care about the upper echelons salaries.

    • ‘whiteness’

      @Dave Harris

      You forgot to mention that the SA Railways that used to be an efficient transport service virtually collapsing under ANC rule, was this a DA and media plot? That a highly respected black academic said the education system was more efficient under apartheid, was this also a DA & media anti-ANC plot? That Eskom ran efficiently under apartheid but has stuffed up under ANC rule is just another media and DA plot? That South African Airways and the SABC under the ANC not nearly as efficient as under apartheid, definitely another DA and media plot. What about the hospital services?

      I am not pro-apartheid, but the vile whites certainly knew how to run things properly compared to the current regime.

      One thing the small group of highly paid white vile males do in SA is keep private enterprise running smoothly which maintains the life blood of the country. I hate admitting to this as I am not a capitalist, but its the truth.

    • ‘whiteness’

      And what about land reform Dave Harris, is this mess-up another DA, apartheid, anti-ANC conspiracy?

    • The Creator

      The bulk of this article is remarkably accurate, but it is extremely unlikely that Harry Gwala would have approved of people being pointlessly run to death in order to distract them from the lack of employment. He was, after all, a man who risked his life to promote social justice.

      It’s difficult to say whether Gwala would have become corrupted, as the rest of the KZN ANC have growh corrupt, had he survived. What we know, however, is that the man he was when he died would have been horrified and appalled at what is going on now. He might have been ruthless, but he wasn’t stupid or incompetent.

    • Stewart Wood

      Short-listing is a process designed to produce ……yes, a SHORT list of candidates! 35 000 hardly qualifies.

      Thus all required attributes on paper are to be scrutinised to produce that short list, by initial elimination. Lack of a driver’s licence as mentioned would mean that the application is immediately discarded with no further scrutiny required.

      In this case then what were the criteria for selection I wonder? Surely there must have been many criteria, such as age, education, prior work experience etc etc etc,in which case one wonders how a ‘short-list’ of 35 000 people could be arrived at in the first place?

      It also strikes me that the huge response to the job advert is indicative of the fact that the advert was couched in incorrect and vague terms leading to an impression amongst respondents that almost anyone could apply and hope to succeed.

      But we have seen this before in examples with less lethality – incompetence piled upon unconcern and wilful negligence always has the potential for disaster.

    • Sthe

      It’s all sound too good for a Banana Republic that you think we are. Did you stop to think who did the selection process? Was it Willies Mchunu? Or was it the corrupt Departmental officials who knew that the MEC was not around and it was opportune for them to corrupt the system. Knowing that a process has been followed and the political leadership will approve the process because of paper trail?

      The death of any unemployed person is a disgrace, more so these being young people whom drivers license is a life dream for them. The ANC leadership should not be blame for officials whose duties is to do day to day job of the department.

      Dave I can’t understand why will the late Harry Gwala can be regarded as a blood thirst whose blood? Harry Gwala remains 1 of our heros with an impeccable record. He went to the grave both arms paralyzed by your forefathers but as some of you claims you have never been a beneficiary of apartheid.

      Save us from your holier than thou approach. Issues of unemployment need all of us not those selectively trying to score points against the ANC.

      For your own benefit the ANC is in the second centenary a lifetime dream for your organisational

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      @Anne Coventry
      People die of heat strokes and heart attacks all the time! e.g. Marathon runners are also vulnerable to these fatalities, even though most of them are in great shape!!!

      @ Rich Brauer
      Yes indeed. It is a vile white practice to use any unfortunate incident to peddle DA’s schadenfreude politics.
      Blaming the government for the weather? Eish!

      @Balt Verhagen
      I don’t hear the same concern from you when workers and their families die on a daily basis from the grinding poverty in the Western Cape, where your DA sides with farmers in paying slave wages!

      @The Creator
      Calling the “bulk of this article is remarkably accurate” and then theorizing about whether Harry Gwala would have been corrupt shows how politics makes strange bedfellows! You will side with anyone that’s anti Zuma – hey?

    • Balt Verhagen

      The embedded ruling party propagandist has risen to the bait and accepted the appellation, thereby admitting to his inane and destructive role in ThoughLeader.

      I belong to nor support any political party, nor ever did.

      I voted ANC in 1994 as I saw it as the only vehicle for change. I rejoiced at the promise that it presented for a better future for all, something that I had stood up for over decades and lost many friends as a result. It even forced me into a career change. I was fully aware of the dangers the ANC was facing from the corrupting siren calls of the old establishment and became increasingly dismayed at the extent to which newly empowered leadership fell for it.

      The rest is a sad history, with disastrous consequences.

    • http://Nicholasjakari.com Blogroid

      Quite IDE from the staggering ineptitude displayed by those who (dis) organized the Gwalla stadium debacle and the general lack of concern displayed by all involvees including the media who never even got around to publishing the names of the unfortunate victims of employment hunger what has been carwefully ignored in the entire disgraceful affair is why such a multitude of ‘hopeful’ candidates should apply for this particular class of employment.

      One does not,for instance, routinely read about multitudes applying to work as drivers, electricians, warehouse clerks or shop assistants, to refer to only a few of the many jobs advertised daily in the national media… It is also not as though these were the only employment opportunities advertised in the press that week.

      What is it about working as a ‘traffic cop’ that caused a feeding frenzy that was seemingly employment opportunity’s equivalent of the ‘ sardine run': an opportunity so valued it was worth dying for?

    • ConCision

      Damned if you do & Damned if you don’t.
      Trouble if you strike. Trouble if you won’t.
      Employed, but earning a pittance
      Unemployed, yet seeking admittance
      Always a Lose/Lose situation
      Under ANC administration

      Only for ANC politicians
      It’s no work and all play
      Live off the fat of the land
      Do nothing for plenty of pay
      All they’re expected to do is say:
      “Education & Employment lead the way”.

      No vacancies: but vacant promises like this
      Keep ever-hopeful, hoodwinked voters at bay

    • Enid Holden

      This reads like comedy of the absurd but is just the latest tragedy to play out in the life of every-day South Africans. What has to happen to stop this phenomenal indifference?