19 April 2012 – Is it the car or the gender that has both the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and SAPS stopping this woman monthly – or are there more factors at play?
I am a 40-something-year-old woman who drives a BMWZ3. I’m not sure if it’s because I am often alone in my vehicle, or because I drive a so-called “expensive sports car”, but I am stopped almost monthly (sometimes more often) in both road blocks and random pull-overs.
On two occasions I have been stopped by SAPS (not JMPD) on William Nicol, near the Bryanston Shopping Centre; and once on Main Road, quite near the William Nicol turnoff.
Twice, the policemen merely stood on either side of my car, one holding my driver’s licence firmly in his hand, and suggested I had driven too fast or that I had changed lanes without indicating.
The third time, both policemen conducted a search of my vehicle but stopped and gave my licence back to me when I phoned a friend to come and meet me while they were searching.
The JMPD? Very rarely do I ever get stopped and fined or merely allowed to go on my way. Almost without fail, the officer tells me what he thinks I have done illegally and suggests that “we can talk”.
In every instance I have said to him (it’s never a “her” in my case): “Sir, if I have broken the law then please ticket me so I can be on my way.” This is always met with, “Do you realise how much this fine will be?”; “Do you know I can impound your car?” or “No, just give me something we can call a gift or lunch and I will let you go”.
Last month I was heading into Braamfontein when I was stopped in a roadblock near the Nelson Mandela bridge. The officer saw that my car’s licence disk had expired and told me that I was driving illegally.
I admitted guilt and said I would see to it the following week and asked that he ticket me quickly as I was in a hurry. He started the schpiel . . . “We can talk; perhaps you can buy me lunch . . .” It cost me R100 to get into Braamfontein that day.
Most recently, having just got back from an overseas trip, I was driving said unlicensed vehicle again and was pulled over in a roadblock in Randburg. I knew that what I was doing was illegal and owned up immediately.
The officer said the fine would be R1 000, which I said I would pay, given that I was in the wrong. This officer must be new on the job, though, as he couldn’t quite bring himself to ask for a “gift” or “lunch money”, but hovered and hovered next to me for ages before deciding I really meant “Give me the fine”.
Did he? Nope. He let me drive off in my unlicensed vehicle and told me to get it sorted.
There are several things about all this that should scare everyone: Firstly, there are the many stories about single women drivers being forced off the roads by officers from the SAPS and metro police, who are then verbally and/or physically abused. How can women feel safe driving anywhere – day or night – when the very people who are supposed to protect us have other ideas?
Secondly, if my car is unlicensed, it may also be unsafe. By offering the option of “a gift” rather than a fine, how many unsafe vehicles are on our roads right now?
Then, of course, there’s the ever-growing idea that “the law can be bought”, which means if any of us have enough money, the laws just won’t apply to us.
So, is it being a single female or is it the “expensive” car that get you stopped? Personally, I think it’s about the car and how “wealthy” you may appear. Here are some comments from women I spoke to about law enforcement on the roads:
JR from the East Rand: My friend and I were driving in a not-very-new or flashy car. She worked for Nandos and had her work shirt on. She didn’t have her drivers’ licence and so the cop asked for lunch at Nandos. We said yes, and he really did come to Nandos the next day. My dad has been asked to buy a cool drink, as in "Oh, it’s sooo hot, I am thirsty" type thing …
KS from Parkview: My mother was caught speeding on the way down to the Eastern Cape a few years back and got the "I'm hungry, buy me lunch…" line. She gave the guy an egg sandwich from her padkos. He was so astonished he let her go and went off to eat his sarmie.
KG from Randburg: I slowed down at a roadblock recently and literally couldn’t tell if the officer was signalling for me to pull over or not. His hand movements were completely weird. My first thought was, “If I don’t stop, they’ll shoot me”. I stopped and was quite abruptly told to move along. I drive a Polo. More concerning now, though, is that my daughter has her driver’s licence. It disturbs me that the very people who are supposed to protect her on the roads are not actually doing that anymore. I think some people – men and women – are targeted for their expensive vehicles; but plenty are targeted for [being female].
NR from Johannesburg: I drive an old student-type car. I have never yet been pulled over at a roadblock.
SC from Hyde Park: I drive a convertible and get pulled over constantly, especially on William Nicol Drive. Most times, a bribe is suggested after the officer tells me my tyres aren’t up to scratch, but they are. Some of the officers actually get quite intimidating, even in front of the other officers, who don’t seem to care.
LM from Blairgowrie: I have never been asked for a bribe (my car is too old, I think) but my husband was once driving home after a Christmas party. He was pulled over and the officers asked him how much he’d had to drink. He said he was way over the limit. They wanted R500. He didn’t have any money on him, so they said they would take him to an ATM. As he didn’t have his card either, one officer got in his car and the other followed him to our home. He collected his card and they took him to an ATM, where he drew the money. The told him bluntly that if he told anyone about this, they “knew where he lived”. Then they let him – a man they knew was under the influence of alcohol – drive home. This is wrong on so many levels.