Are you faced with an ethical dilemma? Are you witnessing corruption but don’t know what to do about it? Ask the team of Corruption Watch experts what to do by writing to: email@example.com and mark your letter ‘Dear Corruption Watch’.
Dear Corruption Watch,
Four Chinese guests of mine, here on business, rented a car at OR Tambo airport. Before they could leave the car rental area to go to their hotel they were stopped by two policemen, who claimed the driver did not obey a yield sign. In short order one of the passengers realised that the policemen wanted money and gave him R200, hoping they would be able to proceed.
The policeman then hesitated, saying that since the visitors tried to bribe him/them, they would have to get into the police bakkie to be taken to jail until Monday morning. The visitors were obviously terrified and after more negotiation the police demanded R4500 for the “problem” to go away. They paid. They again attempted to leave the car rental area when within 40 meters, another two policemen appeared out of the blue and also demanded payment/bribe.
Explaining that they’d just “settled the score” pointing out the other policemen, the officers then gathered and decided to share the loot amongst themselves in full view of my Chinese guests.
Needless to say they were traumatised, could no longer trust any police in South Africa and were considering leaving on the first flight back to China.
When I tried to report the incident, I was unsuccessful; the police told me my story would be “hear-say”. The Chinese needed to report the incident themselves. I can only imagine what damage this type of behaviour is doing to SA’s image – Yours, Astounded
Unfortunately what happened to your friends has happened to a number of foreign visitors to South Africa. While the conduct of the police is deplorable, your friends were certainly not blameless. What your friends did was to break the law. What they should have done was to refuse to pay a bribe, even if it meant being fined. Let what happened to them serve as a lesson to us all.
According to Statistics South Africa, in 2010, one in four out of 150 000 drivers in Johannesburg had been asked to pay a bribe if they wanted to avoid a traffic fine.
A recent Corruption Watch report into corruption in the JMPD in Johannesburg found that many motorists who break the law are willing to pay bribes because it is cheaper and more convenient than paying a fine. What the report also found is that if you refuse to pay a bribe, the officer will often let you go.
It is well recognized internationally that corruption is an occupational hazard facing all policing agencies. While the public has a right to insist that police officers conduct themselves with integrity, we need to accept that we have an equal responsibility in fighting corruption.
As a society, if we want to root out corruption, we need to make sure that we do not tolerate it. Police officers will continue to be corrupt if they know that they can get away with it. The only way to stamp out corruption is to refuse to be complicit and to report it when it happens. Remember, if you refuse to pay a bribe, the officer cannot threaten to report you for offering too little.
If this or anything similar happens to you in future, take note of the officer’s name and vehicle registration number and open a criminal case immediately. Reporting an incident of corruption may help to prevent someone else from becoming a victim. To report corruption contact:
- Crime stop – 0860010111
- National Anti Corruption Hotline – 0800701701
- Corruption watch at www.corruptionwatch.org.za
- JMPD anti-corruption line – 0800 203 712
I find the response of the police to whom you reported the incident equally disturbing and suspicious. I suggest that you report their conduct to the station commissioner or to the local community policing forum.
Take a stand and report an incident of corruption. This article originally appeared in the Sunday Times Business Times on 26 August 2012.