I find that some blacks are inclined to drive like taxi drivers irrespective of the model car they drive or their social status.

It would seem that when it comes to doing the right thing on the road there is no difference between motorists from privileged suburban communities from, say, taxi drivers from the working poor.

It would be interesting for statistics on road carnage to be broken down according to race for us to identify not only those who flout the law but are casualties.

I believe that would somehow sober us up to face some uncomfortable truths.

Presumably, every morning at crucial intersections in Gauteng and other provinces, for instance, we’re likely to find upper and middle class motorists who do not uphold moral behaviour.

It is not a good thing to ask if simple driving is a moral issue but observation of what our motorists do makes it very clear that their conduct does not distinguish between right and wrong.

In fact, it would seem that lack of moral behaviour or simply doing the wrong thing for selfish reasons knows no class distinctions in this country.

The department of transport has for years promoted Drive Alive to observe general rules of the road like observing the speed limit, not overtaking and complying with road signs.

But now it must be asked if this is not a waste of government resources.

Without any prejudice, the presence of blacks, especially from township backgrounds, shows that they are the biggest culprits when it comes to disregarding traffic officers, jumping the robot, blocking the road and make a wrong turn at intersections.

Ask anyone who the likely offender for throwing trash out of a moving car or not complying with road signs and you will not be surprised by the answer.

It is unfortunate that material success in the form of the latest expensive cars does not bring good conduct among motorists.

I know that some may find this prejudicial but except for a few exceptions, most motorists who blatantly violate the rules of the road are black people of African descent.

A casual observation reveals that whites (perhaps because of authoritarian upbringing) tend to stick to the rules and look exasperated and frustrated by the township driving practised by their black counterparts (from the culture of “making the country ungovernable”).

This is what, in some instances, has resulted in road rage that explodes into violence.

It would be very helpful if a simple practice like driving were to be injected into the debate about a moral code of conduct.

But it is disappointing that when observing the rules of the road is used as a criterion for moral behaviour we would find that privileged motorists from the middle and upper classes are no better than taxi drivers. The drivers of BMWs and Mercs do exactly what the taxi drivers do — drive on the pavement or yellow line to beat traffic.

For those of us who are serious about the moral regeneration programme and social cohesion, it is the little things that tell the big story about what is wrong or right with our society.

Motorists, especially those who look like and expect to be treated like VIPs, should not only set the example of doing the right thing but be visible agents of positive behaviour in society.

There was a time under apartheid when whites would enforce the law when they saw anyone, especially blacks, littering or doing anything unbecoming or illegal.

Yet the nature of our society now is that the black is the first person to be suspected of doing anything illegal, including not obeying simple road signs or rules.

To get our society to be what it ought to be, the privileged classes, especially black motorists, have got to set a very high standard when it comes to decent conduct.

Otherwise it’s very easy to say you can take the black out of the township but you cannot take the township out of a black.

Let us do the right thing the right way to create a better society.


Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, columnist and civil servant. He lives in Midrand.

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