The Star

MONDAY APRIL 2 2012

INSIDE

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REAL ALIGNMENT: Highway gantries on the N1 North near Maraisburg stand ready for the launch of e-tolling at the end of April. We should pay for our road improvements, but we want to know that this money isn’t being wasted – and we would be better able to monitor this if we were knowledgeable about public transport, says the writer. PICTURE: TIMOTHY BERNARD

Those who know are curiously quiet
ASTOR Ray McCauley makes a reasoned plea for understanding on both sides of the toll road debate (The Star, March 26). Unfortunately even with toler, ance from all sides, the government has no room left to manoeuvre. Certain procedural aspects of the matter are now subject to legal review, but the judgment of the court will merely determine the proportions in which motorists and taxpayers should pay for the scheme. It remains to be seen whether the judges will call on independent experts (in all seriousness, even a theologian or two) to assist them in deciding how the burden should be shared. Seeing that it has been mostly guesswork up to now, it’s a safe bet that a lot of guesswork will continue to be involved. Another safe prediction is that whatever the outcome, we need to prepare ourselves for economic consequences that could reach Greek (or should that be Biblical?) proportions. Let’s consider four factors which have contributed to this mess. Ministerial Handbook Brigade (MHB): The MHB has been around for more than 100 years. It isn’t only cabinet ministers who belong to the brigade, which requires its members to drive vehicles which are bigger than they need to be, to drive too fast and to drive too far. Very few motorists can honestly

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say that economical motoring is high on their agenda. Usually the only time the average motorist thinks about transport economics is the night before a fuel price increase. Overspending on private motoring has led to a bloated motor, oil and construction industry worldwide, which is a central player in the environmental, financial and geopolitical tensions we face today . So far, most economies have coped somehow with the excesses of the MHB, but the days of being in denial are coming to an end. Hopefully the toll saga will focus our minds on the problem. Public transport users (PTUs): If well-off people can be irrational, so can the less well-off, who make up the bulk of public transport users. SA public transport is among the worst in the world, but our passive commuters seem to be incapable of putting enough pressure on the government, which is quite happy to treat them with contempt. Government officials usually ignore the PTUs, except when they set fire to railway coaches and during the nonsensical October Public Transport Month. Most public transport users are understandably keen to join the ranks of the MHB, and the explosion in traffic volumes on our roads will continue as frustrated PTUs come over in droves to join the brigade. Once again, the motor/oil/construction industry

rubs its hands with satisfaction – it’s great for business. Construction industry hubris: When an entire community is as irrational as this, no one should be surprised when major transport schemes are based on shallow “feasibility” studies, carried out by consultants and researchers whose independence can be questioned. The construction industry is happy to build high-speed railways, wider freeways and BRT schemes as long as the contracts have been signed and someone will pay for it. All three transport schemes were put together during the heady pre2008 days of easy credit and “growth forever” and were turbocharged by the need to be ready for the 2010 World Cup. Little or no thought was given to the possibility that an economic downturn would undermine their long-term viability . The promoters of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Programme would also have taken much comfort from the way in which the promoters of the Gautrain scheme steered their project through the various channels. When a few timid objectors raised concerns about the Gautrain scheme, they were arrogantly dismissed with “it’s a done deal”. Same story here – done deal. The writer has also had personal experience of being brushed off by the promoters of BRT, which is turning out to be a bit of a flop. Hopefully the judges will at least ,

Mistakes could be avoided if public transport were widely and properly taught, writes Vaughan Mostert
Vaughan Mostert teaches public transport at the University of Johannesburg

recommend that a proper inquiry be set up into the processes that were followed in all three cases – Gautrain, the GFIP and BRT. Academic vacuum: In the old days, the disparaging term “bush college” was used to describe the universities created by the apartheid government. Bearing in mind that the e-toll project has been heartily endorsed by one of SA’s most prestigious uni-

versities, let’s discuss the lack of credible input from the academic community . Up to a point, this can be excused. If the public is oblivious of something, it won’t be interested in studying it. Since the average university is reactive (they won’t teach it if the public doesn’t ask for it), only a handful of universities teach public transport at all, and then only as an optional sideline to other courses, usually in the faculty of management. Students trample each other to study accounting, sociology mar, keting, economics and engineering, leaving a vacuum in public transport which has been mercilessly exploited worldwide by the motor/ oil/construction people, and good luck to them. Although most motorists and government officials are presumably fairly well educated, their fields of study are usually in areas far removed from public transport economics. If more of us had studied it properly we would have known that throwing high-speed railways, wider freeways and bus lanes at a congestion problem does not necessarily solve it. We would also have known that our fuel tax wouldn’t be enough to cover all the additional freeway construction of the past few years. But we didn’t know this, because first we weren’t interested and second, even if we were, it’s unlikely that any academic institution from Harvard downwards would have

taught it adequately . Every university should be teaching public transport studies. If more government officials knew something about transport economics, the construction industry, which currently has its tentacles running deep into government departments, might have a more difficult time getting its unwarranted schemes past properly educated officials. Several research bodies exist, dealing with a variety of social, civic and other developmental issues, but they have produced little of public transport value. Academic publications typically fail to include practical suggestions to improve public transport. At least one university Unisa, , has questioned the rationale behind e-tolling – the silence from the rest of the academic world is significant. Where to now? One of the conditions of the GFIP was that alternatives would be provided. This includes a basic nofrills public transport network covering the whole province. Academic reports recommending this were given to Gauteng province more than 10 years ago, but were ignored. If this had been done, three lanes on the freeway would have been quite enough. Along many sections, even two lanes would do the job. But it is now too late. Our failure to act has resulted in R55 billion being spent on three sub-optimal transport schemes – Gautrain, the GFIP and

BRT. It is payback time – the toxic mix of handbook syndrome, docile commuters, construction hubris and academic vacuum is now going to… sorry!… take its toll. Hopefully the court will make the following recommendations: ● The government must appoint people who actually use public transport, and who know something about it, to high positions in public transport so they can sort it out and stop the squandering of funds on inappropriate infrastructure. ● Tell the unions and opposition parties to get whoever is “advising” them to brush up on their knowledge of public transport issues so they can be more effective in putting pressure on the government. ● Tell the same thing to the business groups, road freight transporters and motoring organisations. Businesses and road freight operators should be very worried, not only about the toll cost increases, but also about lower levels of business, as people are spending too much on private motoring. Likewise, if the AA was truly acting on behalf of its members, it would call for public transport to be improved. ● Tell the education authorities to ensure that public transport is taught properly at all universities and even at school level. Let’s agree with Pastor Ray – by all means render unto Caesar, but let’s not allow Caesar to waste our money .

GAINST a familiar backdrop of burning tyres and service delivery protests, President Jacob Zuma spent Human Rights Day basking in the afterglow of SA’s proud human rights tradition and infrastructural achievements. Perhaps it would have been more productive to ponder how far SA has sunk, rather than bragging about the past and boasting about the present. A few years ago, Nelson Mandela asked SA to make March 21 a day on which citizens reflect on, and assess, the nation’s progress with enshrining basic human rights and values. Sadly 18 years , after SA’s first democratic elections, the fabric of the human rights culture envisaged by Madiba is starting to fray . Take Minister of Correctional Services Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s parade before the media last month of Pretoria Central wannabe escaper Bongani Moyo and two of his co-accused, Khumbulani Sibanda and Themba Dube. The minister’s naming and shaming exercise was indicative of a disregard for the human rights entrenched in the constitution For starters, the minister was flouting her own law, section 123 (1) of the Correctional Services Act, which effectively prohibits the parading of prisoners in front of cameras without their consent. She was also violating SA’s international human rights obligations such as the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention against Civil and Political Rights, not to mention the provisions of our own constitution regarding torture, dignity, respect and privacy . Has SA plumbed new depths in the manner in which its citizens are treated? Maybe the minister’s actions are understandable in a climate of fear and anger fuelled by high crime rates, where there is little sympathy for people behind bars. However, playing to the gallery doesn’t mean human rights abuses are acceptable. Since prisoners’ rights are indivisible from human rights, the incident could yet prove to be an ill-conceived public relations exercise that backfires horribly . “It was quintessentially an act of torture,

Torture must be criminalised SA’s human rights A honeymoon appears
to be over, writes Carolyn Raphaely
Carolyn Raphaely is a member of the Wits Justice Project, which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice.

nothing less,” says human rights lawyer Egon Oswald. “It was a gross violation of all the inmates’ human rights and was absolutely shocking. If the minister was trying to demonstrate strong, effective leadership, then she failed miserably… She violated human rights in the most unspeakable fashion.” The UN convention against torture defines torture as any act “by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him… information or a confession, punishing him for an act he… has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him… when such pain is inflicted by… a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”. Oswald believes the minister’s actions fall within this definition. Even the Law Society of SA has criticised Mapisa-Nqakula’s conduct, stating that bringing the prisoners to a media conference could “encourage a culture of vigilantism”. According to law society co-chairmen Nano Matlala and Praveen Sham, chapter 3 of the Correctional Services Act stipulates that prisoners must be kept in custody under conditions of human dignity “The minimum rights of prisoners . entrenched in the act may also not be violated or restricted for disciplinary or any other purposes.” The problem is that, surprisingly torture is not ,

a criminal offence in SA. With no legislation criminalising torture and no effective oversight mechanism to monitor people in custody the minister , and her minions are able to act with impunity and without sanction. All this would change if SA complied with its obligations in terms of the UN convention against torture, which compels SA to criminalise torture. A draft torture bill, initiated in 2003, has not yet been submitted to the cabinet, indicating that the government does not accord much importance to the matter. In addition, SA signed the UN convention against torture optional protocol in 2006 but has not yet ratified it. Until torture is criminalised, civil action remains the only option for its victims. As a result, before the end of the year, Mapisa-Nqakula will face the largest damages claim ever instituted against the Department of Correctional Services, relating to the torture of 231 inmates by St Albans Prison warders in 2005.The claim follows a 2010 UN Human Rights Committee judgment in which a St Albans inmate charged SA with human rights violations and torture and won his case (Bradley McCallum vs SA). McCallum alleged he’d been raped by a warder using a baton. With about 70 of his cellmates, he was also beaten, trampled on, given electric shocks and forced to lie naked on the floor in a long, human chain with his nose in the anus of the prisoner in front of him. On Mapisa-Nqakula’s watch, the Department of Correctional Services ignored five requests in 22 months by the UN to respond to McCallum’s allegations, or simply didn’t bother to respond. The orgy of violence – involving about 50 warders – took place in retribution for the murder of warder Babini Nqakula, a relative of then minister of safety and security Charles Nqakula, husband of Mapisa-Nqakula. No investigation of the 2005 matter has been completed. Is SA’s human rights honeymoon over? Though a progressive constitution has made SA the standard-bearer for democratic processes and practices for almost two decades, it’s now time for soul-searching, stocktaking and urgent action. The criminalisation of torture and ratification of the UN convention against torture are good places to start.

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