/ 16 April 2010

The test of a true South African

South Africans! Who are these people? How does one identify a South African? What is common among South Africans? What will save you from being deported as illegal in South Africa?

Being South African, and experiencing daily South Africans’ behaviour on the roads, I am surprised we don’t have deaths every day on the roads — especially in Pretoria. I live there and it’s the capital city of breaking the rules of the road.

So, what distinguishes South Africans from other nations? The answer — apart from our racial outlooks — is our persistent, unashamed and unapologetic breaking of laws, especially the rules of the road. Eating boerewors and pap or biltong as your staple food is not enough to define you as a South African any more.

The basic and most important principle to understand so as to fit in as a South African is: Only moegoes/aboobhari (fools) follow the rules. If you understand this you’re on your way to happy citizenship, especially if you plan to live or drive in Pretoria.

If you practise even two of the right-hand column rules you are South African. Well done! If you don’t yet hold a South African ID document, please go and claim one — you’ve earned your citizenship. If there’s any resistance from home affairs, show your sheaf of traffic tickets or take a written testimonial from any official who can testify that you have repeatedly broken the laws — if you can find one who has caught you.

“Unity in diversity” is also a way of describing South Africans. United in lawlessness is a truly diverse nation — men and women, drivers, passengers and pedestrians, young and old, black and white, educated and non-educated, private cars, taxis, buses, police cars, service vehicles and (of course) politicians’ chauffeur-driven cars.

Sometimes, however, South Africans disguise themselves, especially when they are travelling, by trying to follow the rules. But they still give themselves away by their struggles to understand overseas customs — ones that foreigners themselves find very easy to follow:

  • Switch off the cellphone before the aeroplane takes off;
  • Do not switch on your cellphone until the plane comes to a standstill and the doors are open;
  • Remain seated until the plane comes to a standstill.
  • If you are invited to a function and asked to RSVP, this means “please indicate if you will come or not”;
  • If you accept an invitation then you must honour that;
  • l If an unforeseen event occurs and you cannot honour the invitation, notify the host or event organiser (“something else came up” is not a good enough reason);

    l Not all women are married. Please ask a woman what her title is instead of automatically addressing her as ‘mevrou” or ‘Mrs”; and

    l You need permission from people to call them by their first names. If you haven’t obtained that, use Mr/Miss/Ms/Mrs/Dr/Prof/Rev; and relatedly

    l It’s not proper to address people you meet for the first time in an official setting as Peter, Lindi, Elza, and so on, unless that is how they introduced themselves.

What’s my interest in all this? What’s my stake? I’m losing citizenship. I’ve become alien in SA.

Woh! I am an alien; I’m a legal alien; I’m law-abiding in SA!