Quotes lighten the heavy load we bear

We like quotes. From the obvious to the inspiring, witty and hilarious to gory and downright crude – these sayings pepper our speech, enrich our conversations, scare the bejesus out of us or make us cringe.

“To each his own,” said Shakespeare in one of his plays. To bring it closer to home, Steve Biko wrote: “I write what I like.” So, whatever you like to read, write or hear, there’s a quote for every taste.

However, there’s one quote that, according to Statistics South Africa’s National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), at least 10.7 million South Africans are very familiar with. Yes, they know it, but may not know who said it.

According to Stats SA, about 17.4 million South Africans walked to their destination, 10.7 million made use of taxis and 6.2 million used vehicles last year.

“The primary purpose of undertaking a trip by household members was travelling to educational institutions,” said statistician-general Risenga Maluleke, when he released the figures. Imagine what we learn on the way to learning. By the way, travelling to work came second.

For 10.7 million people, this quote is so familiar it falls in the category of the “obvious” but it is satire that deserves deeper study. There are many more who know it, that is, before they were car users. Unless, of course, they fall into that small percentage of people who have never used a minibus taxi – and some who have even vowed never to do it.

Here’s the quote: “Sometimes a change will not be given to you. You must ask for it,” by Sipho Khoza – a taxi driver.

There are many others that are yet to be attributed. Consider the following, which some of you have come across on the road: “Do you follow Jesus this closely?”

At the height of the pandemic, when fatalities were in the tens of thousands, another legend had the following words for his passengers: “Wa hotlola wa theoha [you cough, you are out].”

“Brush your teeth before you complain,” is yet another masterpiece.

Consider this as you are in a queue to board the taxi or as it zigzags past you in traffic.

“Fast, deadly … Doom,” it says.

We do not yet know the brains behind the idea to increase the sales of the insect killer by emblazoning each side of the vehicle in the spectacularly green and yellow colour of the can with “Fast, deadly …”

Back to Khoza’s quote: imagine what would Khoza say – or do – if Tumi Modise, a passenger, would employ his dazzling use of satire: “Sometimes the fare will not be
given to you. You must ask for it.”

People have died for saying nothing at all.

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