Politicians spend a great deal of our time and money passing myriad laws aimed at making us think they’re very busy people. The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy may neither be created nor destroyed, so they’re obviously putting lots of effort into converting worthwhile tasks into bullshit just to impress us voters.

I reckon that there should be an international agreement that no government be allowed more than 300 laws. The Ten Commandments would be a good starting point, plus an 11th that I’ve just invented: “Thou shall not be a pompous prick.” That would leave our lords and masters with a healthy 289 laws to take care of all the bits ‘n bobs of governance. Need a new law? OK — just get rid of one of the old ones and we’ll accept it. That way we peasants won’t get too confused about what we’re supposed to do.

I could put up with the government’s interference — barely — if its obsession with controlling every aspect of our lives didn’t rub off on big business. Have you noticed the plethora of rules that have been introduced by the banks, insurance companies and others who are supposed to be here to serve us? Let me fill you in on the incident that provoked this tirade.

About six weeks ago I parked my Triumph outside a restaurant in Pietermaritzburg. Some oke in a bakkie bowled it over on his way out. Jamie Thomas (the old national superbike racer) saw it happen and called me out. The villain of the piece apologised and said he would pay.

The following week I spoke to the culprit’s insurance company and it accepted responsibility. Then the paperwork started. I had to forward an explanation of what had happened to my motorcycle and a sketch of the locale. The company needed a copy of my driver’s licence and my identity document. I did the necessary.

Then it decided it wanted a copy of my bike’s registration certificate, which I didn’t have because the Triumph is owned by Stannic, so I had to contact the bank for a copy. That was followed up a week or so later by a request for a letter from me saying that I would not be claiming from my own insurers. When I submitted that, I was informed that my letter needed to be backed by a letter from my insurance company, confirming that it was aware of the “accident” and that it wouldn’t be paying for the damage. By then I was getting more grumpy than usual. Still, I did what they requested.

We eventually reached what seemed to be the final hurdle. I needed to give the insurance company my banking details so the insurers could pay the repair costs into my account. The company emailed a form for me to fill in, and there, lurking at the bottom, lay the last straw: “If a savings/transmission account, this form must be stamped by your bank as confirmation of the above account details.” Around about then, six weeks after their client bowled my unattended motorcycle over, my moer-meter hit the rev limiter. I fired off the following missive:

“In the spirit of the way things have progressed so far I must request that you urgently forward me the following documentation:

1) A certified copy of the articles of association of your company.

2) A letter, certified by a commissioner of oaths, declaring that the person making the transfer on behalf of your company is empowered to do so.

3) A certified copy of the identity document of the person facilitating the transfer, as well as that of your CEO.

4) A copy of your client’s statement describing exactly how he managed to knock over the parked and unattended motorcycle that he had walked right past immediately prior to getting into his vehicle.

5) A copy of the identity document and current driver’s licence of your client.

6) A copy of your CEO’s driver’s licence. I realise that this might seem irrelevant, but no more so than your request for mine, seeing that I was nowhere near my parked motorcycle at the time of the incident.

7) A letter from your corporate insurer, declaring that you will not be claiming from me for any damage to your client’s vehicle or reputation as a driver.

8) A copy of the registration certificate of your client’s vehicle.

9) A letter from your bank, stating that the account making the payment is indeed that of your company.

Once I have received all of the above I can instruct my lawyer to halt the civil action he has instigated at my request.

I’m peeved that your client’s bad driving has resulted in more red tape for me than would have been required for an application to open a brothel in the Vatican. He knocked over my parked motorcycle, and that has resulted in me making countless trunk calls, spending time and money on visits to police stations and banks, and sending numerous emails and faxes.

I really don’t feel like dropping my work to dash off to what has just been demoted to my second-least favourite corporate institution.”

I still haven’t had a written answer from the company, but I’ve been told over the phone that “rules are rules” so I’ll have to traipse off to my local Absa if I want my bike fixed.

I reckon Mutual & Federal have transgressed the Eleventh Commandment.


Gavin Foster

Gavin Foster

Durban photojournalist Gavin Foster writes mainly for magazines. His articles and photographs have appeared in hundreds of South African, American and British publications, and he's also instigated and...

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