Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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The law is no more in SA. It’s not going to end well

There’s chaos on roads, corrupt politicians, extortion, bribery and persecution of foreigners, while police do nothing

By Justice Malala

In the two weeks I’ve just spent in Johannesburg, one phenomenon troubles me even more than the horrific joblessness, the inequality and poverty, the load-shedding and the xenophobic attacks: more and more motorists are tearing through red traffic lights without stopping.

On Thursday I drove from Hyde Park to Alexandra township and back. Nineteen cars drove through red lights. I kid you not. Nineteen. Driving through those streets was like playing Russian roulette — again and again. I was drenched with sweat at every intersection. It wasn’t just the usual suspects (minibus taxi drivers) ignoring the red lights. It was ordinary drivers. What’s going on?

Now, my anecdote does not make a trend. Yet, this sheer lawlessness got me thinking. It’s not confined to the streets. It’s in every sphere of our lives and it’s scary.

Over the past two weeks we have seen driving school operators block roads and march to testing centres demanding that the transport ministry stop the process of booking driver’s licence tests online or at a help desk. They are adamant that they should not be subject to the rules and regulations that pertain to every ordinary person. They want a special dispensation that allows them to bribe driver’s test workers to jump the queue and even place their clients with “friendly” (read “bribed”) testers.

These operators arrived at a meeting with transport department officials carrying guns and threatening lives. This is utter lawlessness, yet the police have arrested no one.

This behaviour is on a par with what happened last year when ministers Thandi Modise, Mondli Gungubele and a deputy minister were taken hostage and held by so-called Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans for hours. These “veterans” believe the law does not apply to them. They can just resort to violence as they wish, and they expect that they will be treated with leniency. This is lawlessness.

Police and metro police forces are not inclined to stop the lawlessness, as we saw with the July riots.

It has become fashionable these days to blame everything negative that happens in SA on alleged “illegal” foreigners. A major crime takes place and politicians will rush to say: “I’m sorry but we have to talk about illegal foreigners …”

Well, these same foreigners are now raided almost daily by people who claim to be “enforcing the law”. In Alexandra last week, police stood by and watched as these “Operation Dudula” members harassed alleged foreigners and demanded that they show them their immigration documents. In the first place, in a crime ridden and lawless society like SA, who walks around with their immigration papers on them? Is the dreaded “dompas” back? And if it is, then who gives some pimply youth the right to harass people at their businesses demanding to see their papers? Where is the law? It’s not there.

This state of lawlessness is everywhere. Last week I was drawn to a tweet by someone called @KabeloKB which said: “Please remind me to decline work on construction sites near Kwa-Mhlanga, Vaalbank, Siyabuswa & Nokaneng. We had armed members from the ‘business forum’ with guns usually used by Fidelity Guards on site today. Demanding a 30% cut on our project or else there will be blood.”

Now, ask anyone doing any sort of major project in KwaZulu-Natal about this. The practice is rife. The entire province is an extortion racket. These “business forums” are no longer even scared of the police. They run the province. It’s not confined to just construction but extends to private mining projects across the country and major infrastructure projects. Business bodies have been calling for years for Bheki Cele and his police commissioner to act. Nothing.

SA is becoming a lawless society. The government has totally given up on enforcing laws and regulations. Police and metro police forces are not inclined to stop the lawlessness, as we saw with the July riots. I have written this before but it’s worth repeating: I’ve been stopped numerous times in Tshwane by the city’s metro police. Without fail, I am asked for “cold drink” whether I have done something wrong or not. They are cash collectors.

The most worrying aspect of the lawlessness I detect is that it’s happening across the board. Bathabile Dlamini went to court and lied under oath because she really believed that the law would never catch up with her. Her numerous fellow politicians in the ANC who destroyed SAA and Denel believed the same thing. So too the civil servants and friends of politicians who stole Covid-19 protective equipment money.

It is this lawlessness at high levels that inspired and drove the riots last July. That lawlessness is everywhere around us. We don’t stop at traffic lights, we steal from our workplaces, we bribe to get access — and our leaders and civil servants are doing the same thing. It makes for a dangerous environment all round.

–Justice Malala is one of the finest journalists to emerge from independent South Africa

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