A few months ago I beat my breast and went on about how I couldn’t vote for the DA in the upcoming municipal elections because the party didn’t respect the rights of the rural poor. Last week a car sped through a broken traffic light outside my flat, smashing into another car and a group of pedestrians.
This week I am ready to toss aside any notion of principles when I cast my vote in a few months, at the school up the road that deputises as a voting station, the school that is now undergoing trauma counselling for the death of one of its pupils and the maiming of several others.
I am ready to vote for whichever party will be most likely to unseat the current administration in the City of Johannesburg metro municipality and to hold the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) to account for its role in the deaths and injuries that happened on my block.
By all accounts, it was a horrific accident. The broken traffic light on the corner of Louis Botha and Hathaway is a pickup point for students from the nearby Gresswold Senior School. Louis Botha Avenue is an arterial road that roughly follows the M1.
Louis Botha is being excavated for the new Rea Vaya route. For months now the road outside my flat has been dug up, relaid, fenced off, plucked, shorn and lifted. Once the heat of spring days receded, the brown noise of heavy yellow machinery would start and go on through until the early morning.
I’ve lived through the first phase of the Rea Vaya, when traversing Empire Road was a coffee-flask-and-sandwiches affair. The current work has been completed at a much faster clip. The speed at which the city is building is a bit scary, if you blink for too long. At the same time, the basic, necessary work of government bureaucracy – the work that keeps the lights on and the roads safe – is in short supply.
My city seems to be reaching for the stars while lying in the gutter. The Rea Vaya upgrade is meant to transform Louis Botha into one of the ‘corridors of freedom’ mentioned in Mayor Tau’s State of the City Address. Last week this corridor of freedom became an accident site that pulled in five different emergency medical service teams and left dozens of onlookers traumatised. A man in my building couldn’t sleep properly for two days.
The City has since deployed pointspeople to the intersection. Then the light was fixed. Now it’s broken again. There are similar breakdowns in regular service across the City, along with worsening attitude of impunity and recklessness by most of the people who drive here (and I include myself in the list of criminals).
Right now I am ready to vote for the DA or any other party that can force a change in government in Johannesburg. There are few, if any, that I can think of voting for without feeling some degree of embarrassment, but I am prepared to be politically incorrect if it means less butchery on our roads and a shot at a proactive, responsive government.
Normal service will resume in a couple of days, and I’ll discuss the theory and mechanics of coalition governments in Johannesburg. If you have a working idea of how to fix Johannesburg, let me know.