How not to pay for your traffic fine in South Africa

This post is also available in: nlNederlands (Dutch)

In this country, I have been brought to a halt several times by the police so the next rendezvous with our ‘blue friends’ could not be far away. Especially, because we live in Fourways, a rich suburb of Johannesburg. ‘Follow the money’ applies in this case not only to burglars or hijackers but also to policemen with a ‘side hustle’. It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning in Johannesburg. Unsuspecting we drove in our Defender, with two mountain bikes, to Northern Farms, a nature reserve north of Johannesburg. We listened to the radio and drove with open windows at Cedar Road. The wind blowing through my hair… This road had just widened and has now three lanes side by side. It’s the feeling you have driving on new tarmac. The road stretches out in front of you and you can push the pedal and feel the acceleration of the car in your tummy. At least, if you’re not driving a Defender because that moves like a tractor. But still, it was a lovely drive. Until we encountered a stop sign.

Out of the blue. Because that sign was never there and so we did register that there was a stop sign, but we just kept on driving. After all, it was a Saturday morning, nice and quiet on the road. Hmm… not so clever because 50 meters ahead, two police officers were standing next to the road and we were stopped. Gerard looked at me and said, ‘ This is going to take a bit longer. I don’t mind paying for the fine but I don’t want to pay them.’ Right. This is always the difficulty with principles… It sometimes takes time and a lot of hassle and I’m not always in for it. But of course Gerard is right and well, we did make that promise last time when we were detained. We don’t want to ‘support’ local police officers even if they look as innocent and pretty as Bambi. But forget about that. What is happening here? We’ve got two police officers using their Saturday morning to put ‘extra money’ in the bank. And what really disturbs me… I’m not stunned by their actions. It’s just another day in South Africa.

The cop comes to our car and Gerard puts his window down. ‘You didn’t stop Sir’ the officer says while he points at the stop sign. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t see the stop sign, Officer!’ And with that, the game was on! Since we still cannot conceal our Dutch accent, the officer says: ‘Ah! You’re a foreigner. I’ll give you a discount then.’ Seriously? Did he really just say that? What do I need to think of that now? Nice guy? Or, too ridiculous for words? A discount on a fine? Gerard says he wants to pay for the fine. Not the answer the cop was expecting or hoping. He indicates that we will have to go to the police station and that that will be a very far drive. ‘That won’t be a problem. We’ve got time’. The discussion continues… Whether we know for sure that we want to pay for the fine because it could take up all morning. But Gerard just smiles and says he doesn’t mind. Suddenly the cop turns around and walks to his car. He grabs a form and starts writing.
When Gerard follows him, he sees the agent has only filled out the lower part of the form with stuff that actually does not matter. ‘ Zuma doesn’t take care of me… I have no breakfast ‘. He’s changing strategy? That’s a surprise. First, we got a discount, then it’s all about convenience and now we need to feel sorry for him? Apparently, Gerard feels as sorry for him as for himself because his reply is: ‘Your President also doesn’t take care of me’. And then he is done with Gerard. ‘You go’. ‘Sorry?’ ‘ Go, go, and next time be nice for your brother’.

So, that’s apparently also another option. Corrupt police officers who are too lazy to write out a coupon. So you commit an offence, you’re busted, but nothing happens. This country continues to amaze me…

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