30 July 2006

The Long Arm of the Law

Me and my friend Shaqir went to see a film yesterday evening at the documentary festival. Coming back, when he took me to where I am staying, we kept on chatting in the car for a long while in front of my place. We always tend to do that anyway but this time the situation took a different and, for me, brand new turn. Police passed us once and Shaqir payed attention to that, as a part of his South African and struggle intuition immediately and commented that they may be coming back soon which they did after some minutes and then he said that soon they are coming to search us. For me this sounded like an assumption that was a bit far out but then within the next minutes exactly what he had told me happened. First they asked him to leave the car with his hands on top of his head. I remained in the car until it was being announced that the person on the passenger seat, which was me, must put the hands where the police can see them after which I saw a man with the gun pointing at me, which he by the way denied afterwards, asking me to step out of the car with my hands on top of my head. I walked out where I saw Shaqir on his knees in front of the policeman. I suppose I should mention that all the police were white which explains why I was not asked to get on my knees although I kept on asking them why are they bothering us for and what have we done to deserve this awful treatment and why are they harassing us for but a man with a rifle told me that they are going to explain it soon. I said I rather heard it now than soon as the situation was what it was and quite frankly I do not think they expected to get a white person in the car anyway and Shaqir kept on saying that he is a foreigner.

Finally when nothing was found they said that the corner shop had been robbed several times and this was a routine search, which Shaqir’s friend who is a police officer himself confirmed not to be true shortly after the incident. I asked them are they not going to apologise to us but they felt that there was nothing to be apologised for.

I do not know what to think but after spending some time in South Africa I have been harassed by the police and not the robbers. I am not saying that the crime does not exist but all I am saying is one for the cops, zero for the bad guys. Simple statistic and conclude what you want. I hate to be prejudiced but I must say that this incident did not change my opinion about the policemen or the white South Africans. Many people from both groups are nice people but majority of my experiences with both have been more on the negative side. I suppose that is also some kind of a statistic by itself although I have not got any actual figures for it.

So maybe they were just doing their job protecting the area and maybe we just happened to be in an unfortunate role of suspect. Who knows but where I come from, and trust me the service is appalling back home, even when a cleaner must hoover the floor and you are standing on his/her way, they do not just come and push you from your place because they are just doing their job. They say, "sorry, can you move a bit". So if even they would say "sorry", because they must ask you to step aside and all they are doing is their job, then why are these policemen refusing to apologise for pointing the gun at me?

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