A long day in Nelspruit

‘Twas a long day in Nelspruit this past Wednesday. Why was I in Nelspruit almost 500kms from my home in Durban?  As I said on my FB message it is a long story so here goes –

In early February 2013 I received a call from the South African Police Services (SAPS) to say that employees in the Department of Social Security in Nelspruit had used my Identity Number (ID) to obtain grants, for old age, foster and disability. I was shocked and annoyed that anyone could do this, not only to myself but to anyone.  The policeman who phoned asked if I would be willing to submit an affidavit to which I immediately agreed. Three SAPS members arrived at our home on the morning of 13 February 2013. When I asked why there were 3 of them I was told that 1 was a new constable being trained and there must always be at least 2 qualified policemen to ensure accuracy and correctness of the affidavit. The affidavit was quite straight forward confirming my personal details but also that I have never lived in Nelspruit, never applied for any of these grants and do not have any friends nor relatives employed by the Dept of Social Security. Took all of half an hour!

What disappointed me was to learn that they contacted 19 people in this province and, if I remember correctly, just 4 of us were willing to make an affidavit. The others did not want to get involved. Why is it so difficult for so many people to “put their money where their mouths are”?  We are all very good at grumbling about almost everything but when we are given an opportunity to do something about it we often choose not to be involved.

Let’s see what we complain about most according to a couple of websites (amazing how one can Google anything these days). The top 5 are:

  1. Corruption
  2. Greed of politicians
  3. Poor service from all levels and types of businesses
  4. Racism
  5. Laziness

Every time we get an opportunity we get going. We went to a particular shop and ‘the sales person was rude’, we go to buy groceries and the ‘person who packs the goods is useless’ and causes my goods to be squashed, the ‘public conveniences are dirty’ and so the conversation around the braai (barbecue) continues. Politician and Civil Service staffer bashing are real favourites. Do you recognise yourself in any of these? If you had an opportunity to do something about any of these problems would you take it?

Well, I took that opportunity in February 2013.Then I was offered to take that a step further and was only too happy to do so. The Head of Labour Relations in the Department, Themba, called me and said that there was to be an internal disciplinary hearing and would I go to Nelspruit, at their expense? I jumped at the opportunity. This gave me the opportunity to look the thief of my ID in the eye! I received the details of my flight which required me to be at the Durban’s King Shaka Airport at 05:45. I offered to get myself there but Trevor said that he would take and fetch meat 4pm as scheduled. This was during the coldest week South Africa has experienced this year so far. It was 90C in Durban when we left and just 60C when we arrived in Nelspruit an hour later. While walking through the beautiful lodge design airport building that is Kruger Mpumulanga Airport, I heard my name called. It turned out to be Faisel (I will not give his surname as I do not have his permission to do so). He was the only other person from Durban who was willing to come and give evidence at the hearings. We got a hired car and followed the representative of the Department to the office in central Nelspruit, 20kms away.

On arrival we were introduced to Themba who explained the process – the chairman would explain hearing process blah, blah, blah; then the manager would explain the charges blah, blah, blah, then the union rep would explain his/her reason for  being present blah, blah, blah and then we would be called to give evidence. We were left together in Themba’s office for just on 2 hours when first Faisel and then I were called in. All we had to do was confirm our affidavits and that we had not been coerced into making them. The Union rep (NEHAWU) asked a couple of inane questions and then we thought that it was all over. Oh no. The other staff association, Public Servants’ Association (PSA) wanted a separate hearing so we waited while NEHAWU left and the PSA rep moved into that seat. Same procedure and one different person present.

Before we left we were asked if we would do the same on Tuesday 15 July as there were 2 others who had done the same but wanted to be heard separately. Well, we could hardly say no now, could we? So we are back there in a week. Then we were given some cash and were directed to the Ocean Basket across the road where we had delicious fish and chips and a cappuccino. Then back to the airport we drove in the hired car for our flight at 15:10 only to discover that departure was delayed to 17:10, then to 18:00, then to 18:20 and finally 19:00. Only after we asked about the delays were we told that a small plane had crash landed at King Shaka Airport at 11am and was blocking the runway. 20 flights were delayed so we had to wait our turn. Only problem was that this airport is accustomed to closing at 6pm so all restaurants etc were closed. They did at least allow us to sit in the VIP lounge which was warmer and more comfortable. It was amazing how well organised everything was when both our plane from Durban and the one from Johannesburg landed. The arriving passengers were getting off as we were being checked on to the plane. Those going to Durban keep left; those going to Jhb keep right; those arriving keep going straight were the instructions repeated by the airport staff. We were all on board and the plane left within 15 mins of arrival. We could feel the pilot was using full throttle and took just 40mins to get us to Durban at 8pm. A long day in Nelspruit was finally over. Will let you know what happens next week.

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