Covenants come in different forms

Danger steep hill ahead.Road signs are often ignored as motorists use GPS, with disastrous consequences.

Danger steep hill ahead.Road signs are often ignored as motorists use GPS, with disastrous consequences.

Published Feb 19, 2024


COVENANTS come in different forms. The air we breathe is a natural covenant over which living beings have no influence, except hitherto in decimating its quality and bearing the nasty consequences of amongst others, diseases from pollutants.

Other covenants are manufactured. This is done with an intention to achieve common goals towards which society mobilises itself, such as a National Development Plan.

An imperative for a national covenant is almost impossible to escape because human beings have a lot in common that is determined by evolution. What we do as humanity is adaptation through techniques and modifications to coexist with other forms of nature.

Public goods are grounded and codified through written and unwritten covenants to comply with what are nature’s laws. These laws are difficult to change. That there is birth and there is death is a natural law.

Human beings have modified these phenomena in instances by mimicking birth out of the human body but essentially creating conditions that are remarkably similar to the womb and mature the process of birth. As regards death, human beings have extended the number of years the human species can survive.

Given that these laws of nature are based around being gregarious when it comes to human beings and all other species for self-preservation of the species, it goes without saying that collaboration for common good is a sine qua non.

Yet we often witness a drive away from collaboration for common good. Public services aim at complying with natural laws of the need for coexistence for preservation and survival of the species.

Education and health are the most prominent services that meet the public good criterion, yet it is these very ones that are up for disruption through privatisation. To what good in these spheres is privatisation? It leaves one aghast.

In South Africa, the privatisation drive in this sector affects an infinitesimal proportion of the public. While the public sector seats 600 000 students for matric, the private education sector seats less than 15 000.

Truth be told in these private schools, however, the pass rates at a reasonable level are universal for entry into post school education. Are the fees paid in these schools justified? If they are, does public education have to aspire to these high-cost structure to achieve results? Or should a different strategy of high quality of morality, commitment, professionalism and nation building be the input cost and not the monetary cost in order to change the landscape of our education?

At about midday on Thursday last week was one of those regular moments that come like load shedding at you. You have no choice, no influence, nor escape, out of the matter.

This happened on a public service – a road. To this end there are road signs that have gone past their sell by date. The road is steep and not supposed to be used by haulage vehicles. The road signs that are there also include one, which shows trucks are prohibited. However, it stands under the cover of a tree and is not in the line of sight of a modern driver.

Motorists navigate by global positioning systems (GPSs) systems. Hence, the traditional design of roads and its signs and warnings, the official guide of navigation, are often overlooked as people turn to their electronic navigation systems, which is problematic.

The GPS navigation systems themselves operate on a flat surface notion of latitude and longitude without altitude. The co-ordinate system, especially of altitude, is not synchronised with haulage systems performance. s whose only guide is the GPS, which tell them the time to be taken and the preferable route.

So, for instance, a steep road can end up being the preferred route because the GPS calculates that it’s the shortest route and will take lest time for the driver to navigate.

This can have disastrous results as I witnessed on Thursday.

A large double carriage truck took this GPS desirable route, but seconds later it choked on the steep and it humbled itself with momentum backwards, fortunately with the engine still on, otherwise the hydraulic system would have packed up and the monstrous truck would have landed upside down on the N14 about 300 metres away.

As the truck choked, I was reminded of how diesel operated engines on tractors suffer something called airlock. The air-bubble in the fuel has to be released through a diesel bleeding technique. I guess the diesel trucks suffer the same disease.

By late afternoon, a horse designed for this purpose arrived to try and haul it away. By the morning on Friday the horse and the truck had both got stuck, but now in front of gates of three households. None could get out or get back in.

The public road was cramped up with traffic and both the Independent Examination Board and the National Senior Certificate paths were blocked by this monster that has persecuted our street for the past two decades, at times with devastating destruction to the walls and houses.

But in addition, those hauling materials to industrial places end up not doing so, as the materials get destroyed or get terribly delayed.

As a tractor driver, who used to plough with this instrument, I observed how excessive load of plough sod induces airlock. And once the tractor is airlocked, it takes a lot of diesel sucking to get it right but, importantly, time is wasted instead of using that time for ploughing.

Similarly, once a truck chokes there are three risks that manifest: Firstly, the destruction of property, vehicles and life when the truck loses power. Secondly, destroyed merchandise and, thirdly, delayed merchandise.

Yet there is a simple solution to airlock and power failure. Avoid extending the power beyond its designed capability. As regards the haulage trucks, by placing a stop sign 60 meters before the gradient, will force the truck to stop and engage the steep in first gear and successfully complete the steep slope.

It is simple to avoid this danger that has cost me a wall three times, blockage of my exit as many times as there are weeks I have been staying here, as many accidents to fellow motorists and serious production loss to truckers and industry.

The economy of the country bleeds, not only because of Transnet, but by silly and dumb people who cannot adapt to new, oftentimes simpler technologies, that interface easily with high-end technologies.

Dr Pali Lehohla is a Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg, a Research Associate at Oxford University, a board member of Institute for Economic Justice at Wits and a distinguished Alumni of the University of Ghana. He is the former Statistician-General of South Africa.