A police lineup in South Africa. I kid you not!

How many countries in the world do you know of that could potentially pack a police lineup with policemen only? And not because it’s a ruse to uncover a false witness!

Not many, I’ll wager. But how many countries do you know of where the government proudly packs the police service with people of known ill-repute and deviant, often criminal disposition?

Introducing the proudly South African Police Service…or Force or whatever weasel word the government spin-doctors will dream up:

Zapiro, M

Now, if you think that was shameless, consider also that South Africa’s National Police Commissioner, Bheki Cele, whose own character is rather dubious to put it mildly, has been reported recently to have stated publicly that it’s just dandy to have criminal elements in the Police Services. And no, not because it’s shrewd to set a criminal to catch a criminal…no, no, no. Cele thinks it’s perfectly all right because Jesus had a criminal among his disciples. And the mythical Garden of Eden had two people who committed a crime.

Yes, if it’s alright for a mythical religious ideology to have criminals, then why shouldn’t the SAPS have them too!

Well folks, that’s the kind of childish, backwards logic and just plain criminality we are dealing with in South Africa.

Beggars can be Choosers

They’ve commandeered many traffic intersections in South Africa, so they’re not hard to miss on one’s daily commute to almost anywhere. It’s also not hard to miss the derision they are greeted with by a fairly large number of motorists. They appear singly, or in pairs – usually a reasonably fit person accompanying someone less so, but in some cases seemingly less so.

I am however not concerned with those who feign a handicap to garner sympathy from the public; after all, dishonesty is either innate or a means to an end. And since I consider moral absolutes to be undesirable, I will refrain from passing judgement on the motives for begging. What I am concerned about though, is the seemingly uncaring, disdainful attitude of the public towards these unfortunate people.

The harsh realities of the global economic downturn has resulted in a vast number of people losing their means of income, and has driven many of them into the streets to beg. Desperation can force people into doing things they would not normally do, and resorting to crime is regrettably one of more unpleasant kinds. Those you see standing at these traffic  intersections have made a choice – choosing to beg  instead of resorting to some form of crime. It’s not an easy choice to make, and I’m not going to pretend that I know how it feels; but I do know that it cannot be pleasant standing for hours in the harsh South African sun, hoping that someone will take pity on you.

I know you may argue that those of us still fortunate enough to be able to drive past these beggars on a daily basis, should not have to feel grateful that they beg for money, instead of simply taking it from us. I’ve heard comments such as “go get a job like the rest of us,” from those still fortunate enough to have one. But is it as simple as that? I’ve also heard that beggars make a good living plying their trade. But how do you know this really? It’s just hearsay.

The thing is, you don’t have to feel grateful that beggars choose to rely on your generosity instead of relieving you of your cash by some other means; but it would be nice. Parting with a few coins won’t make you poor, and it won’t make the begging problem disappear. It’s actually not going to do much good. But you were not meant to solve all the social problems in the world,  just not add to them. And being kind to your fellow-man is not that painful after all…

South African Police should be taught to serve and protect, “not shoot to kill”

I read with utter dismay the other day that our President, Jacob Zuma supports an amendment to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which will give the police the power to “shoot to kill.”

The crime situation in South Africa is without doubt, very severe. No one denies this; except the criminals, off course, and a few idiot politicians. But then, politicians are no better than criminals; probably worse. And criminals from all over Africa, even the world are flocking to this country because they’ve all heard how ineffective our police are; how our police hire security guards to protect their police stations, how easily our police can be convinced to co-operate in criminal activity (note that I’m not saying all our police, but far too many for comfort). Oh yes, they’ve also heard that in South Africa crime does pay – very well too, and if common thievery and other criminal acts gets too rough for the criminal, there’s always public office!

But instead of solving the root problems that make criminal activity so attractive in this very attractive country of ours, the government responds emotionally by saying “let’s give them the power to shoot to kill.” How unimaginably dumb is that. The last thing the citizens of any country want to do is give more power to the state or its organs. Power belongs to the people, not the state. Allowing the police to shoot indiscriminately can only lead to the unfortunate loss of innocent lives; not to mention potential trigger-happy, power-drunk policemen and women having more power over me, than I care to tolerate.

I’ve searched deeply for answers to our crime situation, and I always come back to the same conclusion – the police are incapable of protecting and serving the public; the knowledge and familiarity of which empowers criminals, and entrenches criminality and lawlessness. Why are our police so powerless to alleviate the crime problem? Here again, I am always led to the same conclusion – poor training, and the reprehensible belief that the badge confers special powers and rights to the wearer.

The police in this country were trained originally, in the arts of propping up illegitimate governments. I’m referring to the apartheid system. The police back then, were taught to enforce laws that kept this apartheid government in power – they were trained to protect and serve the old government, not the people. I know what it sounds like. The old apartheid scapegoat! It’s just too easy to blame apartheid again, isn’t it? But I’m not blaming apartheid; I’m blaming poor training and a mentality that has endured past it’s acceptability date (not that it ever was acceptable).

This legacy lives on – it is perpetuated in the training today, and that mentality has not been eradicated. Our police just want to fill jail cells, and show how powerful they are – they don’t seem to want to put in the effort required of detective work, and respecting the public that pays their salary. But then again, I suspect these guys have never properly, been shown how to.

And then there is the question of poor pay. But properly skilled police will (and should) be remunerated according to the levels of skill they acquire – just moving through the ranks with time, as is obviously customary at present, should cease. A well-trained, well-paid and motivated police force who… well, solve crimes, apprehend the perpetrators and ensure that the courts can prosecute successfully, will eventually send a strong message: do the crime and we’ll ensure you do the time. Off course, realistically this isn’t going to happen overnight; it’s a plan for the long term security of the country.

President Zuma was quoted, during a speech on Tuesday to police station commanders, as saying:

We have an abnormal criminal problem in South Africa. We must therefore apply extraordinary measures.

Yes, Mr. President we do have an abnormal criminal problem in South Africa, but until you also acknowledge that we have an even more abnormal police problem in this country, you or your shoot-to-kill cops are not going to wrest back control from the criminals. I sincerely hope that you issue some pen, paper and a few training courses with those extra bullets that you will be distributing.

Army to help fight crime in South Africa

Just last week an army helicopter crashed into a dam with the tragic loss of three lives. I remember commenting in an on-line newspaper, in response to another reader, that we did not need more modern helicopters; we needed the army to be re-trained to be more useful in combating the tidal wave of crime sweeping through the country. So imagine my surprise, reading another on-line newspaper today with the headline, Army to help fight crime, says minister.

Sadly my initial feelings of joy at having my advice taken seriously (even if it was just a coincidence), turned to despair as I read disbelievingly through the rest of the article. If the following words of wisdom from Nathi Mthethwa, the newly appointed Minister of Police is anything to go by, we are in much deeper trouble than we realize:

“We are at war with criminals.” No shit, I always thought we were at war with innocent citizens!!! Incompetent politicians are, at any rate.

“You may want to release the police from things like cash-in-transit [heists] and concentrate where it matters most.” Huh! The military-precision-style of some of these heists has always left me wondering if the police or army were involved. Thanks Minister, for confirming that the police at least are involved, and that you now want the army to take over.

“If you look at international trends, the job of securing the country is done by the army …” Duh! Well beat me with a paddle for thinking that the job of securing the country was done by the Pensioners Tea Club.

“Improving crime intelligence was also key.” Damn, and I always thought that recruiting more intelligent cops, was the key to solving crime.

“If [criminals] know that you are very weak and can’t manage crime scenes, that encourages [them to] get away with murder.” No kidding, now why didn’t the cops think of this before. Who knows how many criminals they could have discouraged by now?

“Without improving and enhancing our capacity technology, we are nowhere.” Jeez, no wonder they pay you the big bucks!!! We would never have figured that out, without you.

Come on Minister, enough with the dreary rhetoric. let’s catch some criminals already…