Town planners, we need a traffic census

2

KingswayMaseruScrutator yearns for the days during her childhood when drivers were still looked up to as professionals. Back then, in back-of-beyond Qacha, it was that time when drivers inspired wonder among us awe-struck peasant kids. The lone land rover that would pass by the dirt road near our school and the weekly bus were the only two mobile machines that connected us to the modern world then.

Of course talkative uncle Sabi had painted the picture of car-filled roads in Egoli where he had disappeared to soon after marrying our
mother’s eldest sister, only to return after 15 years, wasted and bitter.

Our garrulous Uncle was always withdrawn and violent when sober. Hopose had a way of softening him, in the process, loosening his tongue.
After a round of drinks with other villagers invariably his favourite subject was driving.

So detailed were his recollections you would literally feel you were with him in Jozi for the nearly two decades where he claimed he became
a seasoned driver.

Looking back, such tales seem to have left an indelible respect for the road and other road users on our young, gullible minds.
Without realising it, in our young minds, such tales of heroic car maneuverings on the streets of the concrete jungle that is Jo’burg
made up for what everybody felt was a life wasted chasing after the rand which clearly eluded our dear Uncle to his grave. Only one lesson remained: Our great respect for cars and buses and for men and women behind the wheel.

It was with such a background that Scrutator followed the bright lights to Maseru. Of course buying a car ten years ago was a
landmark in Scru’s life. The gruelling driving lessons along Kingsway, with elderly driving instructor Ntate Mokhula barking orders as if
the driving lessons were an unpaid-for favour, are etched in her memory.

So it’s understandable that Scrutator has had to abandon her old Corolla. Not because it has a mechanical problem nor is it a leshala.
No.
Just that lately, Scrutator discovered it’s simply faster and hustle-free to walk from her home in Mutimposo into town than drive the old though reliable Corolla through the traffic jungle that has become the road from town to the eastern part of town.
It is simply faster and more comfortable to walk.

What, with the advent of importable, affordable fong kongs, every Thabo, Thuso and Mpho has a car or two around Maseru.
Unfortunately, traffic police enforcement has simply been unable to cope with the ever-increasing numbers of all manner
of cars, some in shapes that can only make Scrutator’s three-year-old son marvel at automobile engineering’s ability to replicate unreal
toy car shapes from his favourite cartoon movies.

Scrutator proposes that the more autosavvy among us should start personalising number plates.
Imagine Scru’s reliable Corolla with this plate: ScruQacha. It would clearly distinguish the properly experienced drivers like
her from the wannabe, Johnny-come-lately car owners.
Quite simply, our proud — H — plates for
Qacha, — J — for Mokhotlong, — E — for
Mafeteng, etc, no longer stand out in this ever dense traffic jungle.

In any case, some of these bull-in-a-Chinashop drivers make Scrutator feel ashamed of being associated with the clear lack of driving
skills. A car is like a video game to them, the narrower the close shave the greater these wanna-be drivers’ egos balloon.
They pat themselves on the back in self congratulatory glee at their novel ability to cause goosebumps to older, more careful drivers.
The worst among this species can drive in the opposite lane at such high speed that the rest of the drivers queuing to go to work in the
morning jam literally spend more time peering into their rearview mirrors than watching where they are going because they fear getting
hit from behind.

The more you move your car a few centimetres closer to the white line on your right, the more you increase your chances of being sideswiped
by these rush-hour bullies. At the rate at which cars are flooding our tiny road network, in less than a decade we will be a small Beijing where
legend has it that the menace is now called “traffic insanity”, not just “traffic jam”.

It is said sometimes thousands of cars enroute to Beijing from outside the capital have in the past lined-up for up to nine days in
queues spanning 100 kilometres long, without signs of clearing up.

If you were to bring Scru’s late Uncle Malome Sabi back to life and take him to the stretch between Mahalalitoe up to Khubetsoana
during the morning rush hour or after five in the evening, he would simply tell you how the world has changed so much that
modern Basotho are now competing to park their cars in the main roads. The sea of cars simply makes the roads look like an endless
showroom.

If you can’t wake up early enough to be ahead of this mad jam, then you will simply drive to park for a good 45 minutes in the melee.
Scrutator wonders how much fuel is wasted with cars just idling and going nowhere.

At first she thought cycling to work would be the answer until she thought about the biggest bullies in the traffic jungle, 4+1 and
other taxi drivers rushing to cash in and meet “targets”. If they can’t respect a Corolla, what respect will they accord a mere two-wheeler,
a bike? We have too many funerals already every Saturday.

Let’s simply walk to work in protest. Yes, protesting that there are simply too many of us up the social ladder, owning all manner of
cars. It is better to use Adam’s pedals. Walk! Let’s walk to work and school in protest.

Maybe that would knock sense into our town planning or lack of it. It’s so scary when you think of what carbon emissions have done to the Chinese capital.

Word has it that some guy has just moved up the social ladder from rags to riches simply by selling the air we breathe.
You heard me right. The fella simply sells oxygen to those who need a breath of fresh air to maintain sanity in their respiratory system.
Yes, the guy made his cool millions while still wet between the ears. Scrutator, will start selling oxygen masks by the robots at Lakeside soon.

The problem is she has already given the entrepreneurial project idea away.
Knowing Basotho, before Scrutator can even go to secure the capital, this business would be flooded.
The point is, the sooner the Lesotho Revenue Authority gets their dues through diligent carbon tax, the better.

A car is for convenience, the owner is supposed to move from point A to B without sweating but now, with summer upon us, all of Scrutator’s friends in the driving league get to work in sweat-soaked shirts and blouses. They simply sweat and wait in the immobile queue while cursing the Japanese for selling a car to everyone with a few thousands.

The situation is simply getting hopelessly desperate by the day.

Until Scrutator gets money to join Ntate Matekane in owning a helicopter, she has simply concluded it’s simply safer, faster and
healthier to walk to work for now than spoil her mood in the senseless traffic jams during rush hour.

Ache!

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