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Eve and the wily serpent

By Carol Butcher – 

I have experienced first-hand the burden of temptation; yesterday I had a glimpse of how very persuasive a golden-tongued serpent can be.

I wanted to renew my driver’s license three weeks before it expires.

The Roodepoort Licensing Centre on Westlake Road in Florida Lake was chaotic – there were hundreds of people milling around.

I saw a sign – parking. I turned, but the entrance was further up the road. Two men stopped me: “Lady, do you want to renew your drivers’ license?”


“Follow me, I can help you. Drive up the road, and park. We’ll see you at your car.”

The two gentlemen met me at my car. “Lady, for R40.00 we can fast-track the process.”

“Is this legal and how can you help me?”

“It’s perfectly legal.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely sure.”

I recalled standing in a queue in the sweltering sun in Rome queueing to purchase admission tickets to the Vatican. A ticket tout approached us and for a hefty fee, we were fast-tracked. The system was legal and efficient.

The men pointed to the Eye Tests and Fingerprints building. “Ask for an application form, complete it and come back to us.”

Having completed the form, I asked the lady at Enquires what I should do next.

“Wait outside.”

I went outside. “Excuse me, where does the queue start?”

“There isn’t a queue.”

I returned to the two agents.

“Have you completed the forms?


“Give us the documents and the money. Our contact inside will process your forms.”

“Surely, I must do the eye tests and have my fingerprints taken?”

“No, this isn’t necessary.”

“We’ll call you when the documentation is ready. Let’s move to your car. We don’t want to be near the surveillance cameras.”

The penny dropped. The two men, who I originally thought were entrepreneurial, were criminals.

“Thank you, but no thanks, I’m not going to break the law.”

“Do you really want to queue for hours?”

My heart sank when I looked at the queue, but I stood firm. I must admit their offer was very tempting.

I was angry and frustrated – angry at the thought that someone, whose salary I was paying as a tax-payer could be “incentivised” to hurry along the process. My understanding of performance-based pay was very different.

Alan Paton’s novel, “Cry my beloved country” sprung to mind. What had happened to our ambition of building a great South Africa?

Judging from the length of the queue, I knew I had a few hours wait ahead of me. I had an epiphany – the frustration lifted. I was standing with a few hundred honest, law-abiding South Africans. I felt very proud to be part of this motley group.

Completing the application form, the eye test and fingerprinting took three hours. Would anyone in the private sector dream of keeping a customer waiting for three hours?

The Cashiers’ queue almost snaked to the testing ground. I had another appointment. I had allocated three hours for the process and the time was up.

There was a heavy police presence when I arrived at the licensing department the following morning. The SAPS handed out notices warning against using the services of people offering to assist with the application process.

I’ll never know whether the “agents” had contacts inside. What matters is that someone had already raised the alarm.

In 2016 South Africa was rated 64th out of 176 countries surveyed by Transparency International. A zero rating is perceived as highly corrupt, and a rating of 100, “clean.”

Our goal as a country should be to strive for a rating of 100; nothing less is good enough. However, to achieve this, we must all resist temptation, and we must also report corruption. As leaders, we must send out a very clear message in our organisations that corruption in any shape or form will not be tolerated.

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Carol has nineteen years’ experience as a professional writer, editor and case study writer. Her writing experience includes a stint as the resident Case Study Writer at the Wits Business School.


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