I am only one

Emile Langenhoven, Ward 62 Councillor

On October 7, I was at the scene of an accident where an elderly lady, a mother and quite possibly a grandmother, was killed on Main Road, Wynberg.

She was going about her daily business, walking on the pavement – where all pedestrians should feel safe from passing traffic. Little did she know of the sudden events that would culminate in her last moments, her last breath.

A driver in Main Road decided to make a U-turn. An alleged drunk taxi driver jumped a red robot, swerved to avoid the U-turning vehicle and took out a supporting pillar on the pavement, ultimately smashing into a shop front. I am told by the SAPS that the pillar had killed the old lady.

I am completely saddened by this incident. Not only am I sad, but I am angry. I am angry because an alleged intoxicated man got behind the wheel of a taxi and risked the lives of pedestrians, passengers and drivers alike.

I am angry that a driver decided to make a U-turn in the Main Road, causing danger to drivers on a busy road. And mostly, I am angry because there is a complete lack of accountability on the part of the taxi association who should never have allowed a drunk taxi driver behind the wheel. If this were any other passenger transport company, there would be investigations, court cases and heavy penalties for the company. But this does not seem to apply to the taxi industry. Proof, yet again, that the taxi industry is beyond reproach.

As I stood at the scene of the accident, I feared what was to come. What incredible heartache the daughter of the deceased mother would feel when she arrived and how she would cope with this sudden loss. I wondered what was going through the taxi driver’s head when he was driven off in the back of a SAPS van, knowing that he had just killed someone’s mother.

And as the forensics team pulled back the foil sheet, revealing her lifeless face, I wondered what her last thought was and if she felt any fear or pain in her final moments. I could not help thinking of my own mother and how easily it could have been her lying dead on that pavement.

For nearly a year, I have been fighting daily to find solutions to the proliferation of taxis, the illegal activity within the Wynberg PTI and dealing with problem buildings and slum lords. This tragic incident was sadly the inevitable result of the lack of strict enforcement, the lack of train services, the oversubscription of taxi licences, the rapid increase in illegal taxis and the lack of infrastructure to support the burgeoning taxi industry.

I am reminded by the words of Edward Everette Hale, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

It is the “something” that I will continue doing until I get a result. This accident and the loss of a life must count for something and I am determined to make that lady’s life matter. This incident has quietly passed by our radar as if it is something that happens every day, or has become our new normal. This cannot be.

I am therefore asking the Wynberg community, every resident, every business, every organisation, from both the east and west side of the railway line, to help me lobby for a safer, cleaner, more liveable Wynberg. You may only be one, but you are still one. One of many.