If you’ve lived in South Africa for any length of time, you’ll know that the South African Traffic Police have a less than stellar reputation. It’s not that they’re ALL corrupt, it’s just that the many thousand dishonest ones give the two or three honest officers a bad name. I’ve written about them before, but I’ve also had a couple of run ins I didn’t bother to write about. The corruption here would fill a blog all by itself, and I want to have at least a LITTLE bit of variety here.
Every time I got pulled over and asked for a bribe, I’d kick myself for not having a dashcam. So I bought one specifically to catch corrupt traffic police. And they didn’t let me down.
Let me clarify something first here though. I drive a LOT. Like, about 11-12 thousand km every month. The South African Traffic Police like to set up roadblocks where they check people at random. Most of the time, I’ve done nothing wrong, but when they hear my accent, they decide to try their luck with getting a bribe.
I’ve been here almost three years and have never paid a bribe, nor will I ever. But their usual MO is to keep me at the side of the road for the better part of an hour in hopes I’ll break down.
Anyway, a couple of days ago, I WAS speeding. I didn’t think I was. I was travelling through Delareyville in the North West Province, and I saw where the speed limit changed to 80km/hr, but not to 60km/hr.
In any event, I was clocked at 77km/hr and pulled over.
Everything started fine. I found out that I was in a 60 zone, admitted my guilt, and waited for the ticket.
Instead, the first traffic officer disappeared with my license, and shortly after, a second officer came up to my window. She said I needed to pay a “spot fine.” While a spot fine CAN mean a ticket issued on the spot, in South Africa, it’s well-known slang for a bribe.
I told her I needed a ticket, and she told me it would be R600 and asked “is that fine?” In between the lines, she asked “wouldn’t you rather just give me some money to make this go away?”
I told her to just write the ticket, and she walked away, probably cursing me under her breath for not paying for her lunch that day.
After several minutes the first officer came up and asked “So what did you decide to do?”
What did I decide to do? There shouldn’t be a decision. I was speeding. I get a speeding ticket. That’s how it works.
It was obvious the 2 of them were trying to figure out how best to extract money from me.
At that point, I had had enough and explained that I had them on my dashcam asking for a bribe.
And also at that point, I realised why I spent so much time in school in detention. I just can’t seem to keep my stupid mouth shut.
Anyway, to make a long story short, they called their supervisor from the station, who told me I wasn’t allowed to make a complaint through the anti-corruption hotline, and that I needed to give HIM the video to review and I needed to wait at the police station while he did an investigation.
I had 2 friends and my son in the vehicle, and the thought of keeping everyone waiting for several hours while the supervisor completed his investigation by “accidentally” deleting the video didn’t really appeal to me. And the whole time, one of the original officers was saying I needed to delete the video before I left.
I then shifted gears and pretended it was all a misunderstanding and made fun of myself for not knowing that a spot fine was completely legitimate. Everyone seemed to relax, and the supervisor said I needed to follow him to the station to pay the fine right away (this wasn’t legal for him to do, but whatever), and I agreed so I could get out of there.
On the way to the station, I removed the memory card and gave it to my friend to hide (I have no idea in which orifice he may have stashed it, nor do I want to know). My plan was to claim there was no card in the camera and that I was bluffing earlier. But it turns out there was no need.
I paid my fine of R200 (not the R600 the officer claimed I would have to pay when she was looking for her bribe), and off I went.
I called the Anti Corruption Hotline, and they told me I needed to call the National Traffic Call Centre to report corrupt traffic officials. So I tried calling that number. DOZENS of times over the next couple of days. Nobody seems to answer that line, and there was no option to leave a message.
So I posted the video on YouTube. You can see it here:
Two days later, I got a call from the supervisor again, saying he had seen the video. He said he reviewed it and the officers did nothing wrong. Because of that, they were going to sue me for defamation of character.
Great. The intimidation phase had already begun. What he didn’t know is that a lawyer had seen the video on YouTube and contacted me with the offer to help me lodge an official complaint and act on my behalf. His only payment would be the sheer joy of bringing down a couple of corrupt traffic police.
And since then, a couple of major media outlets have contacted me, and they will be running the story as soon as the official complaint has been lodged by the kind-hearted lawyer, who tells me it should be by the end of today.
It seems this story is far from over. Which is great, because South Africa keeps giving me stuff to write about. Now if only I could find those same officers to thank them for the entertainment…
(If you liked this post, don’t forget to sign up to the mailing list here so you never miss another post again! While you’re at it, you can like the Maple and Marula Facebook page here, the Maple and Marula Instagram here, and follow Maple and Marula on Twitter here)