The man who tried to sell a pothole

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barend le grange INLSA Barend La Grange. Photo: Antoine de Ras

Barend la Grange, one of three men appearing in a Johannesburg court on Wednesday for allegedly defacing Brett Murray’s controversial portrait of President Jacob Zuma, says he is “really not the radical political type that some people are making me out to be”.

But in 2010, he made headlines by taking his politics to the streets – literally, when he put up “For Sale” signs next to potholes in his home suburb of Kempton Park on the East Rand.

And, he has a website, www.elections2009.co.za, which reads as a series of blog posts in English and Afrikaans as a platform for “political discussions for the 2009 elections” .

La Grange spoke briefly via telephone to the Cape Argus on Wednesday morning when he said he was standing outside court.

“I have been advised not to speak publicly until after my first appearance,” he said.

He referred the Cape Argus to his website, adding: “I’m really not the radical political type that some people are making me out to be, but I will speak more about my motives later this afternoon.”

 

Explaining the motivation of the website, La Grange acknowledged that immediately post-1994, SA had experienced “political stability that none of us were used to”.

“(But), the recent changes in (the ANC) had irrevocable effects on the political scenario as we have known it for the past 14 years. It remains a fact that the abuse of power is the result of too much power in the hands of one party,” he writes.

La Grange, whom some reports on Tuesday incorrectly called an art professor, describes himself as a businessman and as a “political commentator as a hobby”.

One of his posts has this comment about Zuma: “Leaders must command respect and values that a proud nation would want to identify with. Mr Zuma and his leaders are not such leaders, and for that matter, a split in the ANC is very welcome.”

In another post, La Grange calls for Christians to be more involved in SA politics, saying that if Christians practised their morals and values in the political arena, it would benefit everyone.

“In the Bible, the issue of governments is a big one… I would much rather see more ‘Josephs’ and ‘Daniels’ in our government, Biblical figures who held top political positions and had a remarkable impact on the government and population of their time,” he writes.

In the same post, he says he accepts and respects the fact that “many” may disagree with his views.

In 2010, La Grange made headlines for taking his politics to the streets, quite literally, when he put up “For Sale” signs next to potholes in his home suburb of Kempton Park.

He said he was imitating a similar incident in Germany where a town in the state of Turinge had sold potholes for about R5 000 each.

The mayor of the German town had reportedly decided to raise funds in this way because the municipality didn’t have the funds to repair potholes which were formed during the winter, the newspaper Beeld reported.

The names of buyers were to appear on a plaque which was to be placed in the tar once the pothole had been filled.

Barend said at the time that he intended to sell the Kempton Park potholes at R1 each, because there was such an “enormous” over-supply of them.

He was of the opinion that the Ekurhuleni metro council would only address the issue if the problem got some publicity.

 

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