Fake news and evil amend­ments

Dur­ban POI­SON

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - Ben Trovato

SO HERE we are, cling­ing to shat­tered shards of hope, try­ing des­per­ately not to get swept away in the poi­sonous tor­rents of tra­duce­ment that spew from the re­pul­sive mouths of our lords of the lies and other vile mer­chants of men­dac­ity.

Our streets are full of tooth­less hags in­vent­ing tales of woe and the courts are packed with pre­var­i­ca­tors of every shade.

Churches re­ver­ber­ate with the sound of equiv­o­cat­ing men fenc­ing their own brand of truth while places of learn­ing are over­run with pseu­dol­o­gists bet­ter suited to busk­ing in sub­ways.

Par­lia­ment is over­run with wool-pulling fab­u­lists and the pa­pers are packed with shaggy dog sto­ries.

Don’t be­lieve what you see, read or hear. Don’t take any­thing at face value. Ques­tion ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the peo­ple with whom you live and work.

I saw a head­line the other day that read: “Cops hunt for man who shot seven home­less peo­ple.” I didn’t read it be­cause it’s full of trig­ger words, but it wouldn’t sur­prise me in the least if this turned out to be the lat­est scheme by our un­hinged so­cial devel­op­ment min­is­ter to solve the home­less problem. Noth­ing is as it seems any more.

We are down the rab­bit hole and things can only get cu­ri­ouser from now un­til the ANC elects a new pres­i­dent in the party’s tra­di­tional or­gias­tic feed­ing frenzy of greed and ex­pe­di­ency.

It’s be­com­ing way too crowded around the trough and old snouts will have to make way for the new. It’s not go­ing to be a pretty sight. Keep the cur­tains drawn and the chil­dren indoors.

Par­lia­ment may try to ram home a fist­ful of ill-con­sid­ered laws be­fore they turn off the lights and go off to do con­stituency work. I did some of that ear­lier in the week and was tongued awake the next day by my neigh­bour’s Labrador. To be fair, I was in his bas­ket. Ex­haust­ing stuff, con­stituency work.

Speak­ing of which, one of the more malev­o­lent pieces of leg­is­la­tion tabled re­cently is the el­e­gantly named Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ad­ju­di­ca­tion of Road Traf­fic Of­fences Amend­ment Bill.

Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. Amend­ments are meant to be good, right? We look to the glo­ri­ous United States of Amer­ica to set the stan­dard here.

The First Amend­ment guar­an­tees free­dom of re­li­gion, speech and the press. The Fourth Amend­ment pro­tects peo­ple from un­rea­son­able searches and seizures. The Eighth Amend­ment deals with ex­ces­sive bail, fines and pun­ish­ments that are for­bid­den. And so on.

This gives the im­pres­sion that amend­ments are good, a tweak­ing of the laws so that the peo­ple might be bet­ter served and less op­pressed.

Not here, buddy. When you hear the word “amend­ment” in South Africa, you sell your house and get to the air­port as quickly as pos­si­ble. Leave your fam­ily. There’s no time.

And when the word ap­pears in the same sen­tence as “road traf­fic of­fences”, you should know it’s not go­ing to be a sen­si­ble amend­ment that en­cour­ages peo­ple to drive stoned be­cause they are un­able to go faster than 50km/h. Or an amend­ment that al­lows men to drink and drive if they are taller than 1.9m be­cause we, I mean, they, can ob­vi­ously hold their al­co­hol a lot bet­ter than a 1.5m teenage girl.

In­stead of mak­ing good laws bet­ter, we’re mak­ing bad laws worse. This is in line with govern­ment think­ing on pretty much ev­ery­thing, re­ally.

There is good news for some, though. Once im­ple­mented, the de­merit sys­tem will en­able traf­fic po­lice to de­mand far big­ger bribes since the stakes are so much higher. I’m happy for them. There’s no rea­son bribes shouldn’t at least keep pace with in­fla­tion.

In Kwazulu-na­tal, traf­fic of­fi­cers have al­ready been trained “so that they can adapt to the new law”. Fair enough, al­though I would’ve thought it more im­por­tant to train us, the gen­eral The amend­ment to the Road Traf­fic Of­fences Bill and the in­tro­duc­tion of its de­merit sys­tem is likely to have you feel­ing like a war crim­i­nal. But who cares, no-one fol­lows traf­fic laws any­way. mo­tor­ing pub­lic, who seem ut­terly un­able to adapt to laws of any kind.

From what I can make out, the amend­ment is de­signed to re­duce car­nage on the roads in the most bru­tal way pos­si­ble. On top of be­ing fined, you will have points added to your li­cence.

This sounds like a good thing. But if you go around boast­ing that you have 97 points on your li­cence, you’re do­ing it wrong. The higher your score, the more your chances of los­ing. It’s like golf, ex­cept you’re play­ing against Tiger Woods off his face on am­phet­a­mines.

Will the de­merit sys­tem re­duce the num­ber of ac­ci­dents on our roads? Of course not. I’m will­ing to wa­ger that most crashes are caused by peo­ple not pay­ing at­ten­tion.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of cell­phones, so­cial me­dia and in­fi­delity has taken away our abil­ity to con­cen­trate for more than three min­utes at a time. Ac­ci­dents hap­pen when our minds are else­where.

So the de­merit sys­tem will not ad­dress the at­ten­tion deficit of driv­ers. All it will do is take a vi­cious fi­nan­cial toll on mo­torists who ac­ti­vate speed traps, don’t use seat­belts and park in load­ing zones, all of which I do reg­u­larly with­out any­one get­ting hurt.

This is what Jus­tice Project SA chair­man Howard Dem­bovsky had to say about the amend­ment: “Some­thing is ter­ri­bly wrong here. This not only vi­o­lates the con­sti­tu­tion but the prin­ci­ples of the jus­tice sys­tem.”

Here’s how it works. Do some­thing naughty and you will re­ceive an in­fringe­ment no­tice or­der­ing you to pay a fine. Ig­nore it and a month later you’ll get a “courtesy let­ter” – for which you will be charged – re­mind­ing you to pay up. Ig­nore that and 32 days later you’ll get an en­force­ment or­der no­ti­fy­ing you of the num­ber of de­merit points against you and again or­der­ing you to pay the fine plus the cost of the or­der.

Un­til you pay, you won’t be able to re­new your car’s li­cence disc.

Ig­nore the en­force­ment or­der and a war­rant of ex­e­cu­tion will be is­sued and the sher­iff will come to your house and take your stuff.

This is a way of get­ting rid of the junk in your garage.

He is also al­lowed to con­fis­cate your li­cence, im­mo­bilise your car and re­port you to a credit bureau, af­ter which you may wish to em­i­grate.

Let me tell you about the de­merit sys­tem. You start off with zero points. Skip a stop sign, fail to re­new the car’s li­cence or use your cell­phone while driv­ing and it’s a R500 fine plus one de­merit point.

Ex­ceed­ing 100km/h in a 60km/h zone – which ev­ery­one does – will get you six de­merit points and a fine. Drive with more than 0.05g of al­co­hol in your blood – which ev­ery­one does – will also see six points added to your li­cence. Plus a fine.

You will then be stripped naked, given a light ston­ing by clerks from the fi­nance depart­ment and, once the Al­sa­tians have fin­ished with you, ban­ished from your vil­lage.

When you reach 12 points, the game is over and your driv­ing li­cence is sus­pended for three months. One point is taken off if you be­have your­self for three straight months. But get three sus­pen­sions and your li­cence is can­celled and de­stroyed.

If you ever want to drive legally again, you will have to un­dergo a “re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion” pro­gramme. That’s right. You’re go­ing to re­hab. And don’t ex­pect any yummy methadone ei­ther.

It doesn’t end there. Get out of re­hab and it’s off to the tri­bunal. Do you know who else ap­pears be­fore tri­bunals? War crim­i­nals, that’s who.

But you’re not a war crim­i­nal. War crim­i­nals aren’t ex­pected to have their hear­ing re­peat­edly post­poned be­cause the pho­to­copier is bro­ken or their file is miss­ing. War crim­i­nals aren’t ex­pected to walk for three days to reach the tri­bunal be­cause their li­cence has been sus­pended. You’re go­ing to be wishing you were a war crim­i­nal by the time this is over.

If the tri­bunal de­cides that you have learnt from your mis­takes – con­tri­tion is best shown by wear­ing sack­cloth and lash­ing your­self with a cat o’ nine tails – you will be able to ap­ply for a learner’s li­cence. If you pass, you may take a driver’s test. I’m not mak­ing this up. They re­ally think this is go­ing to work.

Preg­nant women ap­ply for their un­born ba­bies to write the K53 test in the hope that they’ll get an ap­point­ment by the time they turn 18. You get 12 points and lose your li­cence, you’ll be in a re­tire­ment home by the time you reach the front of the back­log.

The bill must now be adopted by the Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces and signed into law by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. This is ex­cel­lent news. Once Zuma starts ap­ply­ing his mind, all bets are off.

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