"There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down"
For What it is Worth – Buffalo Springfield This morning I read a couple stories about how the Joburg Metro Police are locking motorists up for relatively minor traffic offences. Candice published a post to her blog about her friend who was locked up for making a left turn just beyond the traffic lights when her fellow (and particularly discourteous) motorists wouldn’t let her into the slip lane. There are a number of similar reports of motorists being locked up for the day in police cells only to find the charges against them being tossed out of court. One commentator made a good point when he said:
"Taxi drivers hop across two traffic lanes at a time, without signalling, and nothing happens to them. "Now, our loved ones are treated like animals for an innocent, minor mistake,"
I have noticed a more visible Metro Police presence on our roads lately and, for the most part, I am happy to see it because it means the police are out there, theoretically doing what they are supposed to be doing. I don’t even mind the road blocks if it means that the roads are safer but when motorists are actually imprisoned for a day at a time when they could have been fined or warned to appear in court then I think there is a problem with the system. Especially when some of the bigger culprits, taxi drivers, are still allowed to drive recklessly. Are the Metro Police afraid of them and taking out their frustrations on the rest of us? I am not familiar with the penalties for these offences (and I’d love to hear the views of a lawyer who does) but it seems to be that imprisoning a motorist for taking a turn where it shouldn’t be taken (or similar offences) is excessive and an unjustifiable limitation of our rights. Surely a fine and/or a warning to appear in court is sufficient? The problem is that our Metro Police are increasingly bullying the citizens they are supposed to protect to the point where it is difficult to tell who is worse? The Metro Police or the lunatic and homicidal taxi drivers we are forced to share our roads with. The Metro Police will say they have adopted a zero tolerance attitude and I am fine with that. What I am not ok with is when the Metro Police make comments like this:
you people just think you can pay your fines and get away with it, we are going to teach you a lesson
you are lucky you are in a group as we would have tortured you if you were on your own
(thanks Candice) Where are we living? Zimbabwe? Pakistan? What kind of nonsense is this? Teaching motorists a lesson, torture?? We are living in the beginnings of a police state no better than the Apartheid era and what makes it worse is that our government should know better. It should be more sensitive to human rights issues and community based policing. Picking on motorists like this and imposing unreasonably severe penalties is not community policing, it is State sanctioned bullying. Like Candice, I am really concerned about being out on the roads. What if some Metro cop is having a bad day and locks me up because I didn’t do my 5 point check when I took a turn? What if a group of them decide to torture the white guy to make an example of me? Who is watching the police? Who is going to rein them in or are we going to see increasingly severe behaviour under the guise of "zero tolerance"?
Gavin Foster has a great post setting out the legal position where you are accosted by the cops and arrested for not paying a fine.