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The early morning phone call was expected. It would’ve been a heads-up from Suzette, our house carer, to say she’s waiting at the taxi rank for me to pick her up.
It was her on the line, but unfamiliarly sounding stressed. She had taken ill and not fit for work.
With a woman’s intuition, my Heidi decided to get her to a clinic or hospital. This meant a 10km trip to Suzette’s home in a region known for ongoing protests, many of them associated with violence and vandalism.
What faced us as we neared the turnoff from the highway was not protests, but nevertheless stress related.
Total gridlock. Taxis, cars, bakkies, motorcycles, push bikes and pedestrians jammed the sole main arterial and every off-shoot street leading to the shops and houses. At one stage, only one vehicle moved forward every 10 minutes.
The question uppermost in our minds was whether we’d be on time to be of any help to our very ill patient. And we realised, given the traffic chaos, that we would face the same on the way back.
At the turnoff to Suzette’s home, Heidi, on impulse, put her head out of the passenger window and called out to a pointsman that we were on our way to a sick worker.
Like Moses, he stopped the traffic from all sides, allowing us to cut a swathe though the chaos and on to Suzette’s home.
As expected, the trip back was no better.
At one stage we heard a drumbeat on the roof of our car, combined with incessant hooting. A taxi was forcing its way on our left with the driver leaning out of his window, fisting our roof and shouting at us.
The guy could see we had nowhere to go, but insisted on acting like a total idiot.
I was on the verge of taking him on verbally, but both Heidi and sick Suzette on the back seat admonished me to keep cool.
“This is their territory”, I was told.
When arriving at the intersection the same pointsman spotted us, acknowledged the patient, and did another Moses.
After medical care Suzette is recovering nicely.
And we are left with a new appreciation of the nightmare the good people of the township face every day of their lives.
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