South African police ask for ‘cold drink’

“Give me cold drink,” the officer told the driver, casually leaning against the pull-down window. The sun shines on the windshield of a car that has long been parked on a busy road in Johannesburg. Under the cap with the sparkling SAPS (South African Police Service) logo, the officer made it clear that he had plenty of time. Twisting a series of keys on one finger, he chewed gum tirelessly.

Tired and laced boots, he has a uniform and bad habits: in South Africa, wanting a “cold drink” at a roadside check is the famous command to drop a few hundred rand (or tens of thousands of dollars). euros). A small bundle of blue tickets, emblazoned with a buffalo head on one side and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela on the other, surreptitiously slipped into the officer’s hand to avoid fines, detention or even death. by the police station.

In a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world, the police are notoriously inefficient and corrupt. Two out of ten murders are solved, according to official figures. And those who can afford instead rely on private companies to provide security. “So what should we do?” asked the policeman. Driving a brand new red SUV, the 40-year-old French woman looks behind. Her daughter is sleeping in her baby chair. The engine has had time to cool down.

Not believing she was speeding, she hesitated between leaving a small sum of money or getting into a protracted argument with the police officer, who was determined to pocket some fines. Next, on a police car, the phone number of the “anti-corruption hotline” was proudly displayed. – “Although drunk” –

“They want to make some money before the weekend to drink,” Lwando, a 25-year-old Uber driver, told AFP. He spends most of his time on the roads of South Africa’s megacities, and he’s convinced that weekend checks are on the rise.

In total, according to a police report for the period 2021-2022, more than 36,000 checkpoints were organized by the police in a year, or nearly a hundred checkpoints a day across the country.

“Even if you’re drunk and can’t afford to drive, as long as you have the money, they’ll let you go,” the driver continued to reprimand, adding that the amount demanded depends on “your greed.” police”. .

According to an unnamed interior official interviewed by AFP, corrupt police do not discriminate, with cases frequently reported on highways in business districts and affluent towns. “It’s just the opportunistic tendency of some people to always want more,” she said.

It would “lead to the downfall of the entire organization and all its members because, to the public, the entire police force itself is corrupt,” a senior policewoman interviewed by AFP. statement, who does not wish to express an opinion. his name.

According to official figures, nearly 160 cases of police-related fraud and corruption were reported in 2021-2022. This phenomenon exists elsewhere in Africa and around the world. According to a report by Transparency International, one in four Africans paid a bribe in 2018, either from public services or the police. “A criminal and disciplinary investigation has been opened into each case of alleged corruption,” police spokeswoman Brenda Muridili told AFP.

“Of course there’s a rotten guy or two in our ranks, but most police officers work hard,” she said, urging people not to generalize.

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