Damn diligent citizenship

I am, by and large, a law-abiding type. Perhaps I do occasionally exceed the speed limit, and I have been known to outstay my welcome at a parking meter. But I believe that most laws governing civil society are there to prevent anarchy and should be obeyed — I’m even learning to take my shopping basket with me to the supermarket.

So, when it was decreed that my old driver’s licence should be replaced with a credit-card sized permit (vastly more convenient really), I duly went along at the first available opportunity and did the right thing.

And when it was decreed that my domestic worker should be registered for unemployment insurance I thought “and about bloody time, too” and braved the Internet to download, complete and e-mail forms before the (original) deadline.

Where has all this diligent citizenship gotten me? Not very far at all.

As far as the licence is concerned, granted, I didn’t have to queue for hours/days in the blazing sun to meet the (ultimately extended) deadline. But soon I will have to. Because my credit card licence expires in August. And, as I understand it, the renewal will not be a simple matter of breezing in and replacing the expired version with a new one once I have proved that I can still see the road. The word is out that if I don’t apply for the renewal three months in advance of the expiry (it’s already too late for that), I will have to get a temporary licence, for which I will have to pay a considerable sum. I will then have to return at whatever point in the future the bureaucrats manage to make the new licence available, and will have to pay for that too.

Why does this not seem fair?

There is another small problem. When I receive my new licence it will not record the fact that I have been a licensed driver for several decades. It will merely note the date on which it was issued and the date on which it expires, making it unusable in its first year should I travel abroad and wish to use it to rent a car (for which one is required to have had a valid licence for a minimum of a year).

Did anybody think this process through before rushing into it?

As for the Unemployment Insurance Fund fiasco, I have e-mailed twice to inquire whether my original registration forms were received. I have re-sent them, and have attempted on several occasions to fax the forms through to the number given on the website, only to be greeted either with an engaged signal or an unanswered ringing tone. I have had no response whatever from the department. It is two months since I started the process.

Consequently, I do not have a registration number so I cannot pay the contribution that was due on May 7 — perhaps just as well since the original banking details given out by the department were wrong.

Oh, and I understand permission is required if I choose to pay for a year in advance. Permission? Why? Surely it is to the advantage of the department not to be dealing with bitty payments each month and to have the benefit of interest on a year’s worth?

I am aware that in the great scheme of delivery problems in a country where people starve, die of Aids, have no access to fresh water or, indeed, any of the amenities of life, where social security grants don’t reach those for whom they are intended and schoolbooks sometimes languish in warehouses and never get to schools, these are minor quibbles. But it seems to me that these two examples are symptomatic of a more significant malaise — the theory is frequently sound, the intentions unquestionably good, but the execution invariably faulty.

And nobody, it seems, is prepared to take responsibility for making the whole thing work.

Pat Tucker is a Johannesburg-based freelance editor and writer

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