The best, and worst, of South Africa

David Bullard writes on the Cape Town Cycle Tour, and our time wasting NPA


Last Sunday morning in Cape Town was one of those perfect mornings that make you wonder whether the Almighty hasn’t handed out rather too much natural beauty to us at the expense of other parts of the world. It was the perfect morning for the Cape Town Cycle Tour and I was there at the start line bright and early.

Not literally of course, although I did recently buy a second hand mountain bike which I plan to ride once I’ve summoned up enough energy to pump the tyres. This year I chose the softer option of making a cup of strong coffee and settling down to watch the excellent live coverage on YouTube.

What is now known as the Cape Town Cycle Tour started back in 1978 and was known as the “Argus” in the days when that newspaper still enjoyed some respectability and could afford to co-sponsor such an event. The full name of the race until the rebranding five years ago was the rather cumbersome The Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour and one suspects that the non Argus co-sponsors couldn’t have been best pleased with it always being known as ‘The Argus’.

Held on the second Sunday of March it is one of the most magnificent ways of marketing Cape Town as a tourist destination. Apart from attracting cyclists from all over South Africa the event also appeals to cyclists from neighbouring countries and I have a few keen amateur cycling friends who have visited from Europe and made the Cape Town Cycle Tour a feature of their holiday here.


This is the first time I have followed the event on TV and, since I dumped DSTV over a year ago, I was delighted to discover I could watch it for free on YouTube with commentary from the excellent duo Phil Liggett and Gerald de Kock. In the days when I still had DSTV I used to upgrade my bouquet for a month during the Tour de France just to watch the spectacular aerial views and listen to some intelligent commentary on the race. The coverage of this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour was just as spectacular with the Atlantic seaboard looking stunning and, in the words of the commentators, rivaling anything you will find in the world for beauty.

It was also a wonderful display of South African unity. Despite what certain members of the main stream media might have us believe, South Africa is not a bubbling cauldron of racial hatred and here was an event with people of all races, religions and creeds lined up at the start line.

All along the route there were spectators of all colours out in the morning sun to cheer the cyclists along. If you watched this on TV you would really be at a loss to understand what we are so frequently told is so wrong with our country. To the untrained eye it looked like a whole bunch of friendly people (30000 is quite a bunch) out to enjoy themselves and help raise money for charity.

Not a single face mask was evident, there were no burning tyres, no rocks were being thrown and there were no reported verbal incidents which would need to be referred to the SAHRC for swift retribution.

Obviously the joyless ‘woke’ among us will roll their eyes and explain that this was because the race went through areas of white privilege and that the whole event is elitist because bicycles are unaffordable to the majority. But to anybody simply watching the coverage of a cycle race with spectacular scenery, immaculate roads, smiling people and efficient infrastructure the immediate reaction would be that this would be a fantastic place to live and work. Which is why the Western Cape needs to declare independence as soon as possible.


Not such cheery news came from The Daily Maverick event held in Cape Town last Friday. Speaking during a session at ‘The Gathering’, our new head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Shamila Batohi, said that, although she is painfully aware of the public pressure for prosecution for corrupt practices and state capture, it’s not going to happen.

Part of the reason is that the NPA was so weakened during the Zuma years that there simply aren’t the resources, either financial or from a skills perspective, to get any of the many known crooks into a court room. “The reality is if you want to bring a good corruption case… the average internationally in developed jurisdictions, it takes between six and nine years. It’s not what we want to benchmark ourselves against… but it is the reality.”

I’ve no doubt that this will come as music to the ears of those who have been digging their snouts deep into the fiscal trough over the years. Hell, with a lead time of six to nine years that offers a lot more opportunity to steal even more. And that six to nine years doesn’t take into consideration the inevitable tactics that those accused of any crime will almost certainly employ to delay the day of justice even further. By which time the President of the day will have declared a general amnesty to anyone over the age of 70 on the grounds that a prison sentence would serve “no useful purpose”.

If I were thinking of getting involved for the first time in a bit of corruption or state capture I would see this as the green light. What’s the worst that could happen? By the time I’m caught with my fingers in the till it will be five years of accumulating ill gotten gains.

That gives me time to hide them away in a complex web of trusts and companies. Then it’s another six to nine years to get to court followed by a three year court case in which I may or may not be found guilty. That’s a potential 15 plus years of unimpeded living high off the hog so why on earth would I want to take a job with government paying a measly R1.7mln a year other than to give me access to the treasure chest?

Sorry Shamila, I am sure you are a woman of honour and I know you have a hard job ahead but you’ve just sent a clear signal that it’s business as usual to our favourite kleptocrats and I’m afraid it just won’t do. Plus it’s just possible that the conspiracy theorists on social media will think that the much publicized rejuvenation of the NPA was just ANC window dressing and the delays in prosecution were intended all along.

However, the real risk is that the patience of the people will be so sorely tested that they will take the law into their own hands and favour the Mussolini option for bent politicians.