David Bullard writes on his not too successful effort to renew his driving license card
OUT TO LUNCH
The Gordon’s Bay driving license renewal office and testing centre is located at the end of a road which passes through what might just about qualify as the industrial heartland of Gordon’s Bay.
Like so many government buildings it is depressingly run down and in bad repair. It is also located in what is gradually becoming what we are encouraged to refer to, in politically correct terminology, as ‘an informal settlement’.
Parking is limited and when I arrived there last Wednesday to renew my driving licence all the parking spaces had been taken so I was directed by a helpful informal parking attendant to leave my car on a mound that might very well have doubled as the local rubbish tip.
But this is South Africa in deep decline and one eventually learns to abandon all first world expectations when it comes to dealing with anything run by the ANC government and rather to embrace the quaint South Africanness with all its attendant chaos.
I had been dreading the renewal of my driving license card, mainly because it is a largely futile exercise given the fact that the machine that prints the cards ‘is broke’ and is back in Germany for a long overdue service.
This has led to an estimated backlog of around 500 000 license cards still to be delivered. However, being a law abiding cretin and unwilling to seek the services of my local criminal underworld in the pursuit of a fake driving license I set aside a day last week to go through all the pain of renewing my driving license card.
Mrs B and I arrived at just after eight and found a queue of about ten people which was very encouraging. We were sanitised, our temperatures taken and directed to a window to show all our relevant documents. The staff were absolutely superb which, considering the gloomy conditions in which they work, is quite an achievement.
One of the documents I needed was a municipal bill as proof of residence but since the house is in my wife’s name I also need an affidavit from her, witnessed by a commissioner of oaths, saying that I’m still permitted to live under the same roof as her.
I’m hoping she doesn’t predecease me because then I’ll be royally f****d. Why on earth, with all my residential details in my ID book, do I need to further prove to a government body that I live where I say I live? What possible difference could it make when applying for a driving license?
Apart from the proof of residence, the affidavit confirming that my wife was still sharing a bed with me after all these years, four black and white passport photos, proof of ID and the soon to be expired driving license card I also took along a certificate from my optometrist (number 6584213) certifying that he had tested my eyesight and that it more than met the requirements of the driving license centre under regulation 102 of the National Road Traffic Act (93 of 1996).
I stupidly assumed that this would speed up the entire process and shorten the queue forming behind me.
Now, notwithstanding the fact that I had paid for the optometrist’s check up, that the state of the art equipment he uses is made by Zeiss and costs upwards of R2mln and that he has an unblemished record as a man of integrity within the local community my optometrist’s certificate was not acceptable.
Instead, I had to place my forehead against a rather grubby and worse for wear machine and move a joystick to identify which way up the letter E appeared in a window.
The problem with this was that there was a delay when I moved the joystick and not all the answers were registered. Then came the peripheral vision test where a light flashes either left or right and you move the joystick to confirm that you’re seen the light. Same problem with the joystick not bleeping. However I did somehow manage to pass the test on this ludicrously antiquated machine.
So what is the point of asking those of us who can afford an optometrist’s test to bring one along if we are wasting our time and money doing so?
Well, apparently there are lots of forgeries out there and you can’t be too careful. By refusing my eye test certificate the Gordon’s Bay driving license centre effectively accused me of fraud.
I was tempted to ask for the police to be called and demand a full investigation to clear my name and that of my optometrist but my wife reminded me that we live in Mickey Mouse land and it would be pointless.
Having completed the test I was directed to the cashier’s window with my application documents where I paid my R140. How long before we get the new card we asked?
About four months if we struck lucky we were told. By which time my driving licence card will have expired. So what am I expected to do I wonder?
Someone suggested I need to apply for a temporary driving license but since I’ve just spent R140 for a license valid for five years I can’t see any merit in spending the same amount for a temporary license valid for six months.
My contractual obligation in applying to renew my license two months before expiry, passing the eye test and paying R140 is complete.
If the South African government are so inept that they cannot complete their side of the contract and supply me with a driving license card then it’s hardly my fault. I look forward to some interesting interactions with traffic officers in the next few months.
When Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May as UK prime minister back in 2019 I wrote a rather upbeat piece for PoliticsWeb saying that his unique combination of eccentric vanity and narcissism may be just what the Brits needed in a prime minister to get Brexit done.
Despite being loathed by the Guardian reading lefties and portrayed as an upper class oaf, Boris went on to win a massive election victory in December of 2019 with an eighty seat Conservative majority. Many of the seats won were at the expense of very disenchanted Labour voters in the north of the country. Sadly, that was the end of the good news for Boris.
Nobody would have wished the COVID pandemic on any politician, particularly as it came just when the UK needed to get its post Brexit ducks in a row. But any new economic initiatives would have been eclipsed by the response to the COVID pandemic and the enormous cost to the UK economy.
However, any brownie points that Johnson may have earned by rolling out the COVID vaccines are largely forgotten in the wake of frequent reports of drinks parties being held in the grounds of 10 Downing Street, some with the PM in attendance and others not so.
Fortunately, a senior civil servant has been appointed to compile a thorough report on the drinks parties and to find out whether or not Boris was ever seen holding a glass at any of these parties. His memory of such events seems a little hazy judging by his performance at Prime Minister’s questions last Wednesday.
Predictably there have been many calls from grassroots conservatives for Johnson to do the decent thing and resign. The anger over the drinks parties is partly that they were held at a time when the police were busy prosecuting people for breaking strict lockdown laws.
But there is also the feeling among many that the entire nation has been the victim of a gigantic practical joke. After all, the people assembling for drinks at 10 Downing Street and other locations were the main decision makers when it came to COVID restrictions.
If anybody knew how dangerous COVID was and what a gigantic threat it apparently was to the entire nation it was these people. And yet they felt confident enough to ignore social distancing, to remain unmasked, to participate in large social occasions and to do so long before any vaccines were available in May 2020.
Clearly the view of these powerful policy makers was that COVID posed no great danger but it might be a bit of fun for the behavioural scientists in the ‘Nudge’ unit to pretend that it did.
That, at any rate, is how many Brits who have had to endure harsh lockdown measures while their lords and masters carried on as normal will see it.
One of Boris Johnson’s role models is Winston Churchill and I have no doubt that Johnson saw himself as the new Churchill when he came to power in 2019. When Churchill became PM in 1940 he returned to Chartwell, his family home, and raised a glass of his favourite Pol Roger with the toast “here’s to not buggering it up”.
Too late for toasts for Johnson and I would be very surprised if he is still prime minister in a few months time. He will also earn an unenviable place in history as one of the most deceitful and useless UK prime ministers ever.