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Monday, 09 February 2009

Science fiction or reality?

A common theme in Dystopian science fiction stories and novels is the complete breakdown of law and order, which is then restored by the hero. Here I'm thinking of for example Robocop and Escape from New York, in which the hero restores law and order by strewing the landscape with the bodies of the bad guys.

A feature of these movies is that the police forces are often extremely corrupt and that there are even tribes of police in conflict with other police or criminal tribes. Another common theme is that of the crooked cop, and corruption at high levels in the police force.

Of course these movies are aimed at tittilating the citizens of countries where there is effective policing and political accountability, and scaring the moviegoers with what might happen in the future.

What is science fiction in the United States is however reality in South Africa. The chief of police, an ANC cadre and career diplomat with no experience in policing whatsoever, called Jackie Selebi, was suspended due to his ties with organized crime. We're not talking about a precinct commander here; this joker was the country's Chief of Police.

In South Africa the traffic police are typically run by the cities, whereas the ordinary police are a national function. The traffic police do not usually investigate criminal matters other than traffic offences. In a truly bizarre incident during 2008, however, the city of Johannesburg's Metro Police and the national South African Police Services were involved in - wait for this – a shootout!

Yes, you read correctly. One police tribe shooting at another police tribe, unbelievable though this may sound. The Johannesburg Metro Police is on strike again, this time because its chief, Chris Ngcobo, is corrupt according to the ordinary members. A female police officer has additionally laid a claim against Ngcobo whom she accuses of raping her.

This is clearly a mutiny in the ranks of the Metro Police against their chief, against whom the city seems unwilling to take any action. It is probably also an opportunity for the many obese members of the Metro Police to stock up on their Big Mac calories.

What is science fiction in America, is reality in South Africa.

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