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Credibility and integrity


Shooting from the lip

File picture: David Ritchie

Parenting is about “being there”. It means the world.

I want to be there, too. Watching school sport on Saturday mornings is such a precious season in life.

So: I’m on the N2, in-bound, heading for Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs. And, at the R300, traffic grinds to a halt. Dead-still. What? Surely not – it’s Saturday!

I check Twitter. My heart sinks. @CapeTownFMS (Freeway Management System) has posted: “Stationary vehicle: N2 inbound after R300. Left lane closed, expect delays.”

Great. Even worse, that was 58 minutes earlier.

Exasperating. I won’t “be there”, cheering my son on, this time.

Half an hour later, traffic eventually freed up. The offending vehicle: a white Nissan Hardbody double-cab, with a puncture or some wheel problem.

This single vehicle has led to hundreds of vehicles being severely delayed.

There’s a traffic officer, in smartly-pressed blue uniform, in an Opel sedan. Not much help.

The response: “It took a very long time for the tow-truck to reach the vehicle in the thick traffic.”

So I wonder: Is this lumbering tow-truck, stuck in the congestion, the only resource we had?

I remember an illustration I drew of Uber’s thinking. A birds-eye view of a highway, filled with traffic. There was only one bus and one taxi amidst all those vehicles. But Uber looked at the situation differently – saw every private vehicle as a potential latent resource for public transport, too. Boom.

Amidst hundreds of vehicles stuck behind that one nasty Nissan on Saturday, was an abundance of resources to solve this mess.

My old Land Rover is strong enough to tow a small country. And a few cars back was another parent, a highly trained mechanical engineer.

Between us, we could have got that Nissan down the road and out of the way in about eight minutes.

So could a traffic officer on a BMW GS Adventure, carrying a mechanic and his mobile toolbox – dispatched to the scene.

A joint venture, sponsored by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to mitigate the crippling economic damage from our notorious traffic congestion?

So many potential solutions.

Increasingly, the state is understanding its role to be an aggressive enabler of innovation and disruption – a free flow of ideas, from the whole of society, into practical action.

And, to do that, the state needs two primary qualities: credibility – as a partner worth talking to; and integrity, the promise to tenaciously stay the course, until intractable problems are jointly solved.

How do we land disruption? With credibility and integrity.

Precisely the same two qualities South Africa’s Members of Parliament need tomorrow, August 8.