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As tributes to Dr Ian Player pour in from across the planet, his legacy will prevail to the extent that those who follow him also simultaneously undertake a journey inward and a journey outward. Inward to contemplate the gift of life within, and outward in actions to change social, political, economic and religious systems that are life-destroying.

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The tragic accidental death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes from a fast short ball which struck him on the neck has been lamented around the world.  Such incidents are so rare as to be considered freakish.  Yet a similar incident occurred in South Africa in 1901 when a 38-year-old attorney Edward Jones, batting for Kokstad Cricket Club was struck by on the chest by a fast ball.  His funeral “was the largest seen in Kokstad”, with both black and white mourners in their thousands gathering to weep at the untimely death of a remarkable young man.

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The year 2006 marks the start of Sanral’s nemesis over tolling decisions, because it was in that year that Sanral CEO Nazir Alli refused to listen to a judge, a bishop and a queen, all urging him to meaningfully consult. His manifest failure to do so before negotiating with road construction consortiums over tolling concessions for the N2 Wild Coast and N4 Maputo Development Corridor toll roads has now become massively compounded in the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. In 2006 it was budgeted at R6.2 billion. Then the cost escalated to R11.4 billion in 2008 before again mushrooming to R18 billion in 2011. There are many good reasons for users of the freeways to refuse to pay their e-toll bills, but the sheer injustice of having to now pay a debt that has a large but still indeterminate odious portion, is perhaps the most persuasive of all.

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“It is common to oppose a truth, but impossible to resist a story”, said spiritual writer Anthony de Mello. Twenty years ago democracy was about enabling people to cast their vote in freedom. Today it is about the counting of votes to feed the addictive intoxications of power. Is the best antidote spoiling of ballots in protest? Inspired by some words from the African master storyteller Ben Okri, the writer says story telling offers an alternative, better suited when too much power for too long has rendered the intoxication a chronic condition.

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About John GI Clarke

John Clarke hopes to write the wrongs of the world, informed by his experience as a social worker and theologian, to actualise fundamental human rights and satisfy fundamental human needs.  He has lived in the urbanised concentration of Johannesburg, but has worked mainly in the rural reaches of the Wild Coast for the past decade.  From having paid a fortune in toll fees he believes he has earned the right to be critical of Sanral and other extractive institutions, and has not held back while supporting Sustaining the Wild Coast (www.swc.org.za), the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (www.safcei.org.za) and the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (www.outa.co.za), in various ways.

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