We need more heroes among
SOUTH Africans need to make a choice: either we sacrifice and become part of the solution or we drown in our fear of the consequences of exposing corruption.
This week, Corruption Watch released a hard-hitting report on corruption in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department, highlighting the unit's weaknesses and the extent to which traffic police abuse their power on the roads. The response, of course, is that the authorities are studying the report, even though their own internal investigations paint a different picture.
You may call that denialism, but the City of Johannesburg insists this is not the case. Whatever it is, I find it interesting that this latest report by Corruption Watch, along with data released by Stats SA in 2011, paints a picture of rampant corruption and bullying, while the metro police's own internal inquiry puts the number of corruption cases much lower than the 50% reported this week.
Is it that the JMPD's figures are correct, as they reflect only cases that have been reported and resolved, as opposed to those that go unreported? I suspect the latter make up the majority of cases.
The question is: who should take responsibility for this? If we, as motorists, don't stand up and insist that our complaints be looked at, can we blame the authorities for not taking action? If we amplify our voices and use every available avenue to expose crooked cops, then surely that will leave little room for the authorities to downplay our concerns and reduce our complaints to "unfounded allegations"?
Yet, I have no idea how you go about recording the abuse, corruption and bribery without risking your well-being.
I am sure I am not the only driver who has been intimidated or harassed by the metro police. It is particularly frightening when you are a woman driving alone at night. But, like so many, after the exchange with the officer who is asking for a bribe, insisting that I "must have" had a drink or, even more commonly, making comments laced with sexual innuendo, I simply drive off and move on, thinking to myself, "What a horrible way to live."
Challenging the officer would surely land me in jail for no reason other than I dared to question him. Even when I know that an officer who crosses the boundaries should not go unchallenged, the thought of being alone with two or more males in a car driving off to some jail cell is too frightening, so I remain in this paralysis, trapped and helpless.
But the most unnerving consequence of my quiet retreat is the sinking feeling that I have let myself down, that I have violated what I claim to stand for and, in not speaking out, am perpetuating this cycle. I once asked an officer if he had a wife, mother or daughters and how would he feel if some man tasked with upholding the law made such blatantly sexual comments or bullied them. His response was, "Hawu, can't you take a joke?" Yes, of course, it was a joke.
Perhaps this explains why we are so elated when we do encounter cops who treat us with respect and professionalism. There are many of them, and every day they are there, making our lives better. I remember how, as a new driver with a brand new car on the road late at night after attending my evening lectures, a traffic officer helped me get home. He saw I was in trouble when the car kept stalling on the highway.
Recently, a taxi driver was fined R1000 or three months' jail for attempting to bribe a traffic officer, Nomfundo Nkomo, who stopped him for ignoring a red traffic light. He handed her a R100 note and a soft drink. According to the charge sheet, Nkomo accepted the bribe and arrested him. More of these heroines and heroes, please.