(This piece by Tim Hewitt-Coleman first appeared in The Herald on 24 October 2018 . I am not sure if this post will make sense to people reading from outside of South Africa - or even outside of Port Elizabeth - but I'm a firm believer in the idea "Think Global - Act local"...)
Sardinia Bay on a Sunday morning is perhaps my favourite place in the world. Sometimes we walk “Tank”, our enormous Great Dane. Sometimes we go for a swim in the choppy surf. Other times we simply sit on the dunes taking in the panoramic view of Indian Ocean. There is something rugged and untamed about Sardinia Bay. Its massive sand dunes refuse to bow to the our feeble plans to build a road to the beach, perhaps rejecting the vulgar and boorish club house structures, maybe like a body would reject and vomit out that which is foreign and that does not belong. But, while the dunes may move steadily in their path and the ocean may look different every Sunday, what is unchanging in this landscape has been “Gunter’s Wurst Wagen”. Yes, that’s right, for as long as I can remember, this little german sausage “Food Truck” could be found in this remote little piece of Africa regardless of the weather or the time of year. A winter morning run would not be complete without huddling in the car park against fake tudor trailer from the blustery cold wind with a warm cup of Gunter’s hot chocolate (with those little marshmallows floating on the top.)
Seems cosy and perfect doesn’t it? Except, since 13 October, Gunter’s Wurst Wagen is nowhere to be seen. ”Did Gunter die?”, I asked, “No!” said the ubiquitous, lumo-vested car guard. “Did his trailer break down?” “No!” He said again……“His Permit Expried!”
As it turns out the “Wurst Wagen” was not at its usual Sunday spot, because there has been some delay at the Municipality in issuing the permit required to trade from this remote and dusty car park. The chatter among the Sardinia Bay car park regulars descends very quickly to baseless rumours of corruption, general winging about administrative inefficiency and about how we should see to it that more rules are put in place to stop municipal officials being slow to administer the rules that have already been put in place and still more rules should be put in place to ensure that people like Cheryl Zondi cannot be raped by people as evil as Pastor Timothy Omotose’s accusers say he is.
As I pretend to listen to all this, my thinking drifts, as it especially tends to do on a Sunday, to the Constitutional Court and the recent ruling of judge Zondo, legalizing the smoking of Dagga. My humble attempt to paraphrase that part of the ruling that interests me is that “…there is no science that has been presented that can show that dagga causes harm to the extent that South African individual’s privacy and freedom, as envisaged in the constitution, should be curtailed and limited.” So, though parliamentarians may have believed differently, they are in fact not free to dream up random legislation without having considered the science of the matter. What judge Zondo’s ruling says is even if 100% of parliamentarians believe that you and I should not smoke dagga, they are not permitted to pass legislation to prohibit us from doing so in the absence of scientific proof that harm will be caused by the activity that the legislation is attempting to outlaw.
But back to our friend Gunter. What worries me about this story is that so many of us are completely happy that a “permit” should indeed be issued, and that Gunter should just be patient. I, on the other hand, rather think we should be asking the question?: “ What harm would be caused if all the sellers of German Sausages, Ice cream cones and hot chocolate were free to decide for themselves whether they should try sell their stuff at Sardinia Bay. What if we allowed beach goers and tourists to decide for themselves who they would rather buy their Hot-dogs from??? My guess, it that there would be chaos for a few weekends with a dozen “Wurst Waggen” clones trying their best to offer their wares to a half a dozen windswept beach goers. But then, with time, the natural order of things would sort things out. The truth is we do not know how it would work out. We cannot see the future, but luckily in this case we are under no real pressure to be able to see the future. There is nothing of any real consequence at stake. There is no science anywhere than any person can quote that predicts that anyone while die at the Sardina Bay car park or that anyone will even be harmed if the municipality just backs off and lets people be as free as the constitution of the republic tells them they are.
So while the constitution is clear to me and to our esteemed friend, Judge Zondo, the sorry reality is that it is completely unlikely that our friend Gunter has saved up enough over the years from the sale of Sunday sausages from to be able to afford the fancy lawyers that will be able to take this case to the Constitutional Court. But while it is sad, it does not mean that those of us who value freedom are defeated. No. I take courage from something I heard an old farmer quote the other day: “Tend the garden that you can reach,” he said. Right now, through this piece of writing, I can reach you. Who knows, maybe tomorrow you can reach your mates around the braai. Who knows, maybe the next day Gunter and others like him will be arguing for their Freedom at the Constitutional Court.
One step at a time!