In democracies which function properly ie. where elected officials serve the people, headlines such as Nottinghamshire police ranked worst, is not too common, but rather alarming for ordinary people.
Not in South Africa though. In this pessimist-induced society, such headlines are extremely likely to be greeted with comments such as “so what’s new.” Rather than being alarmed, the ordinary person would merely shrug his shoulders, blurt out some derogatory remark aimed at the government, and get on with his life. However, there are others, like myself who would be moved to comment online or write a letter to the editor of a newspaper to express concern or disgust, but would still feel, and actually be generally powerless to do more.
The South African Police as a force across the country, pretty much fares the same in terms of poor performance. I think it’s very probable that the Nottinghamshire guys would stand out like a paragon of excellence when compared to any police unit in South Africa. That is not to say that the South African police is totally useless. Amazingly, there are police officers who do shine, but they are such a small minority, they pale into insignificance when you look at the problems with policing in this country.
While reading that article, I was pointed to a government website run by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary, which provides information and statistics on how well the Police in England are performing. The HMIC’s website states its motto as Inspecting Policing in the Public Interest and shows:
- how safe you are. In South Africa we know this very well; we are not very safe at all, and the police statistics can’t be trusted
- how much is spent on your police. In South Africa we’ll never know how much is being spent on the police for sure, but we’ll always know how much that should have been spent on the police is actually being frittered away by corrupt and incompetent government officials
- whether they perform well and if they are likely to improve. In South Africa, the jury is already out on this; the police don’t perform well at all, and it’s highly unlikely they will ever improve given the current political circumstances
We have nothing even remotely close to such a website service in South Africa. In fact, when the Police authorities do release statistics on crime, they are always hounded by accusations of fiddling with the figures and cover-ups, and justifiably so. It’s actually safe to say that the safety and security authorities which fall under the government haven’t got a clue when it comes to crime, and how well the police are performing to combat it, let alone being able to show which units are more effective, or whether our money is being spent effectively.
However, it’s not entirely the fault of the Police services, that we have this grossly unjust situation in the country. The current Police Force is a relic from the days of apartheid. The current ANC-led government inherited a Police Force who were largely trained to police apartheid-era policies; in effect they served the government of the day, not the people. Instead of re-training and de-indoctrinating the police of old to serve the people which would be the right thing to do, the new government neglected to do so. Perhaps it was an oversight in the beginning, but recent events leads one to believe that retaining a police force that serves the government before the people, has become a useful tool of the new ANC-led abomination that masquerades as a government.
Taxpayers money that should be spent on re-tooling and re-educating the Police Force is diverted instead to buying outrageously expensive vehicles (amongst other things) for the dark-suits that controls the police, including the Minister of Police himself; not to mention the ludicrous sums of money the esteemed Minister deems necessary for accommodation at elite hotels around the country, while ostensibly on official business. Money is further wasted on creating private motor-escort and body-guard services within the Police Force, for government officials, reminiscent of crass dictatorships around the world, which buzz around at high speed on public motorways, aggressively forcing ordinary motorists out of the way. Apparently there is no shortage of police thugs to staff these units, and the required behaviour to be a member of these units, is a natural fall-over from the days of apartheid. There are however many other instances of gross misspending which is well documented, so I won’t list them in detail.
Off course, the police themselves don’t seem to be in any hurry to change their behaviour. I think they quite like showing off the power they don’t really have, or deserve. In one unsavory incident not too long ago, a women who did not move out of the way quickly enough, from being in front of one of these thuggish government motorcades, was assaulted at a police station for her tardiness, while many members of the police watched. A student was recently roughed up by the goons from President Zuma’s speeding motorcade for flipping them the bird. Apparently the President does not take too kindly to his people exercising their freedom of expression.
Only just recently the police at Mowbray Police Station in Cape Town were reluctant to process ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu, for driving under the influence of alcohol because he was a high-ranking ANC official. Aparently he was three times over the legal limit. And this is not the first incident of its kind; there were other other incidences where the police deliberately tampered with evidence, and falsified statements to aid governement officials who were unfortunate enough to be caught breaking the law. And breaking the law, seems to be the national passtime for government officials in South Africa, but they generally enjoy special treatment from the custodians of law and order. So you can see why the government is so intent on maintaining the apartheid-era status of the Police Force. The police can be a very convenient ally if you want to hang onto power at all costs.
Policing in South Africa stinks, so if you’re hoping that a service which inspects policing in the public interest is something that we desperately need, you first have to hope that the police start believing they serve the public, instead of the government.