One way to keep the blues away in these tough times

"Tough Times Call for Smart Measures", read a headline in China Success Stories, an online business newsletter of that country.

"Tough Times Call for Smart Measures", read a headline in China Success Stories, an online business newsletter of that country.

The article briefly was about China's unprecedented economic growth in the past 10 years.

What really hooked me was the headline itself rather than the content of the story; the creative spin to the original expression, tough times call for tough measures.

Indeed, all South Africans are living in tough times.

The price of petrol has risen for the umpteenth time this week within a short period.

A loaf of bread is almost R10, a far cry from the R2,50 we used to pay.

Now putting a plate of food on the table is an uphill struggle even for those with regular jobs.

Hoo, boy! The crime statistics are not making things better.

Naturally, blacks are known to be resilient, what with having lived through the perils of apartheid.

In the townships people got together and formed stokvels - compulsory group saving schemes.

These stokvels have become a major industry that is even recognised as such by major banks today.

Stokvels were designed to augment the measly wages blacks were paid but which willy-nilly rapidly became an innovative dig at the system.

Speaking of innovation, I am inspired to digress, but just a little bit.

I once wrote about the ingenuity of black women, those who belong to manyano, church mothers' unions.

They look resplendent in their colourful uniforms every Sunday.

The idea of the church uniform, I learnt, was for all women to look the same, poor and rich alike, as they worshipped together.

Now back to tough times calling for smart measures.

I am not holding any brief for the government.

The Department of Transport has been encouraging motorists but with little effect to use public transport.

A common response has been: "Why should I give up the comfort of my car for lousy public transport? I'd rather get stuck in traffic."

Of course, South Africa's public transportation system is one of the most erratic in the modern world.

However, as petrol gallops beyond reach, many are forced to consider adopting the highly successful - in most populous European and US cities - lift club phenomenon.

I hear that many commuters have already started lift clubs.

This system works. Apart from saving money it takes the blues away from the humdrum of traffic congestion.

Imagine the camaraderie when the lift club members share titbits and banter at the end of the day or beginning of the week.

Yes, I think blacks should be encouraged to start these clubs.

I know that it is going to be difficult to leave your luxury sedan at home because no one will see it.

Well, we blacks like to show off, don't we?

On a more serious note, lift clubs will ease the snarl-ups that come with traffic gridlocks.

There will be fewer private cars on the roads and, if we are lucky, the Department of Transport might eventually get its act together and modernise the public transport system, so that we can beat the petrol woes.