OPINION: Beware that walk on the wild side

Imagine a youngster learning to drive in a dusty street in his township; one who has access to the family bakkie after school to enable him to conduct deliveries for the family business.

For company, this teen gets his friends to come and enjoy the ride, and in the process, assist him to deliver the bags of mealiemeal, sugar, rice, vegetables and other household stuff.

That sounds like too much fun.

The rewards of the above scenario were not only in the few bob the teens would make from the deliveries, but lay in being in a bakkie crammed with your peers after the work was done. The quicker the deliveries were effected, the more time was spent driving around the township for other things – like attracting potential girlfriends.

But the teens’ happy rides were also affected by a certain type of pedestrian who felt they owned the road. These pedestrians were mostly found on weekends walking in the middle of the road. Most times, they would either be under the influence of alcohol or really believe they owned the road.

The constant hooting at such pedestrians to get off the road did not help, as the teenagers in the bakkie developed a strategy to assist these walkers off the road quicker when a vehicle was coming. And it was an effective measure – since no pedestrians could stand a potential whipping with a sjambok.

I am reminded of the above after a story about Siyabulela Dyumani in the Sowetan on Friday. He has to pay legal fees after having sued the police for wrongful arrest and detention. The man, who lives near Despatch in the Eastern Cape, initially won a R15 000 claim against police which the high court overturned this week, saying the arrest and detention were justified.

Dyumani and a friend had been arrested in December 2014 by police and kept in custody for hours after they were found to be “extremely drunk … and walking on the centre line of the road while hanging on to each other”. When the men let go of each other, one of them fell on the ground and Dyumani followed suit, while laughing at his friend.

Pedestrian deaths cause about 40% of fatalities on the country’s roads, where 14 500 people died last year.

Road deaths need to be policed effectively to reduce the carnage. And dealing harshly with other Dyumanis out there could be a good start to saving lives. But authorities must effect strict policing against reckless and negligent drivers, too. They must stop asking for “cooldrink money”.

In that way, the war against road deaths will be slowly won and our roads will be safer again.

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