I have learned three valuable lessons from commissioned police officers. The first was to always walk to the car with whoever came to visit you. Then you know the bastard is actually leaving again without stealing anything of value from your base. Of course, it was unheard of to do such things against your own lot but the army lads were open game for whatever we needed. It was only much later that I found out I could ask and if willing to sign for it, they will gladly help us out. Oh, and a few other items like an AK47 bayonet smoothed the deal a lot. It was rather sad to break the rules of our games with each other like that and I felt terribly disappointed. Nevertheless, I signed as Col Saunders of KFC fame expecting them to realise (we wore no ranks on the border) I could not possibly a police colonel who are very elderly people (38 years plus). But no, they just jumped at attention rather rapidly. Startling it was too, I even looked behind me to see why.
Secondly, I learned to have a very nice right hand hook at all times available just in case the criminal or terrorist tries his luck. Mean Street rules meant you act forcefully and with great violence. However, the violence was not without reason as your actions may be tested in court. Still, brutality was our middle name or so the liberals said. Well, they had reason to fear our attentions. We did sort them out and they lost every fight. And it did not take long for us to become fatherly if needed.
Therefore it was with surprise that I noted the large amount of negotiations before rioters got themselves shot by us. I expected to see them gathering and just to open fire. However, in the eighties this was not the case and I talk of personal experience of the many riots I attended. Those commissioned officers were generally hard men, fair and strict with many years of experience behind them and they needed every bit to survive. Whatever they did or happened under their command was scrutinized and almost always condemned. I am sure if they were caught going to church it would have been, according to the long haired liberals, to arrest and torture the priest and most foully too. Well, that happened at times. The church by the way is not a safe haven for criminals. The police can get you there also.
What else? They had their own pecking order which was very important to them. The day they were commissioned, after going through the ranks for years and studying (almost all had a three year diploma or degree) at night, was a big deal to them and their future careers. Once an officer you could expect to be promoted and do more courses until a very select few, less than 0.1% reached general officer rank. This was above brigadier, general rank started at major general, there was no such thing as a "one star" general. In our terminology that would be a second lieutenant and there was no such police rank either.
This pecking order decided who would be promoted first to the next level and why it was so important I would not know. I never became a commissioned officer but am sure, if I stayed on, I may have. All this came to a halt after 1994. I know of men (all white) who are stuck in the same rank for almost twenty years now. Why is this? Ah yes, the liberal wet dream called "Affirmative Action" or "we will promote the incompetents based on race wherever we can" in volksmond (Afrikaans, popular speech). There is not a country in the world including America or Western Europe where Affirmative Action succeeded and won't here either, that is why I say it is a liberal wet dream. I don't disagree with the principles of Affirmative Action but obviously the way it is done in this country is beyond reasonable. We are the only country in the world where Affirmative Action is done against a minority; usually it is done exactly the opposite. The liberals will now state it has to do with "injustices of the past."
I would say the first twenty years after Apartheid that may have been an excuse, not a good one, but one you could understand. Today? With the new generation coming into the workplace? Not so much, it is ridiculous and costing this economy billions. Yes those who left are not paying tax here anymore. So guess who is losing and who is winning in the end? But it does not matter, Affirmative Action will not go away in the next two thousand years and Apartheid will be blamed for anything and everything including Xenophobia and God knows what is next as I don't but I suspect it will be worse.
I am often asked by ex-South Africans or those stranded abroad if they should come back? They have read my books and expect an honest answer. I always say "No, don't come back, this is not your home anymore and not what you were used to years ago. Stay where you are." Have my mind set changed with the recent xenophobia attacks? No, when a country starts denying its history, read destroying or removing statues and attacking what it is sees as foreigners the end it written. We saw this at Nuremburg too when the Nazis burned books because they felt it was not part of their setup. The idiocy of this should be clear, the history remains, whether you removed every statue or not, it remains. Obviously some are too stupid to see this. This too is typical "liberal."
The last thing I learned from commissioned police officers? Respect, they demanded it and would get very obnoxious if rebuffed. In my career I only saw one officer I believed to be a complete failure as a man, a human and a policeman. I believe I wrote about him in my Mean Streets Books. The rest was as I described them to you.
A few days ago my former commanding officer came to visit. I have to tell you the man is not as old as I thought he was in the second Mean Streets book. That I will rectify in the new versions. But he is still as impressive as ever and it reminded me of that great author George MacDonald Fraser who also met his former colonel (who he described as having a neck like a vulture and quite a few other nasty things also). Luckily the man had a sense of humour and so did this one. He only ruefully remarked he "knew what we were up to." Of course he did but as a good officer, the best policeman I have ever seen (this is in the book) he knew when to look away. And that brings me to the last aspect of respect. What do you say when you see a man, married for 36 years to the same woman, open the door for her? You see love, respect and one hell of a man. I will remember that lesson. I wish I could open a car door for my late wife. Every day I wish I could hold her hand or hear her voice again.
For those of you who don't remember what "Kristallnacht" was let me explain. Back in 1938 the Germans, then under command of one Adolf Hitler, attacked and destroyed thousands of German businesses. To be accurate it must be said they attacked only Jewish German businesses and caused millions of damage for which the Jews were fined one billion Reich marks. Because of all the broken glass lying around it became known as "Kristallnacht or "the night of broken glass" and it still send shudders to Jews the world over. They know it was the turning point and the start of millions of Jews end on this earth.
Who caused this attack? Well that depends entirely whose books you read about it. Almost every school child will say "Hitler" and leave it at that. Others, on the fringe of the right wing in Europe, will say the propaganda minister, Dr Josef Goebbels did and that Hitler immediately issued orders for it to stop and stopped it did but the damage was done. This idea, of Hitler "saving Jews" don't go down well for obvious reasons and in the end, it was his movement who placed people like Goebbels in the offices where they could cause such attacks. So it entirely depends on what your views are but it is acknowledged that Hitler stopped the carnage when he was informed about it.
This Goebbels, you will no doubt remember, made a lot of children and each had a name started with an "H" to honour his master, Chancellor Adolf Hitler. You will also remember that Goebbels was the last Chancellor for about two days after Hitler committed suicide and that his wife, Magda, poisoned all the children in the Fuhrer Bunker. She then played cards as they were dying. Their bodies were prominently displayed by the Soviet Army. Goebbels and his wife walked to the grounds, from the below ground bunker, to avoid their bodies to be carried (as was Hitler's and his new wife Eva Braun-Hitler) before they were shot dead and then set alight. There are pictures of that also available as the bodies were not really buried and soon found. Another thing Goebbels is remembered for is his "Iron Curtain" speech long before Winston Churchill copied it and became even more famous much to the chagrin of those who know the truth. That is by the way, who cares?
What is not remembered today for political reasons no doubt is that the British Jews, stating flatly that they are talking on behalf of all Jews, declared war on Nazi Germany in 1933 when Hitler took over, legally, he was elected by the German people. If you don't believe me, go and do some research and find out for yourself. It was headline news in most newspapers. The declaration certainly did not help their plight and I am not sure what they thought what would happen. A man like Hitler, no coward whatever else he was, would not turn his cheek though the death camps only officially started years later during the war years. Before I am overwhelmed with complaints, note that my father was Jewish as his mom was Jewish. In the strict Jewish Orthodox outlook, that makes me Jewish though I grew up Christian and will never change and don't consider myself to be Jewish. And I know how it feels when a genuine Jew tells you "You are not one of us because your mother is not Jewish." I can tell you, you walk away and turn your back on such people and stop reaching out. If he had more brains he would have said "Let me explain to you what we stand for, we are menschen." So a man like me would have suffered in Nazi Germany.
Ironically, the Jewish State, Israel, and Apartheid South Africa was fairly close to each other. There is no doubt that they shared nuclear weapons technology and others, like the South African derived Mirage Cheetah fighter jet which looked very much like an Israeli Kfir. When the new lot came into being with Mr Mandela the relationship rapidly cooled down and today it does not take much for South Africa to state that Israel is an "Apartheids State" which is a considerable insult in any liberal language.
But you know what was the most shocking about Kristallnacht for me? Nobody wanted the Jews. When they tried to flee they got stopped and life made as difficult as possible for them to cross borders and that was in all countries. When they tried to get to Palestine in the hope of a new beginning the British Government feared, there is no other word unless you think it was anti-Semitic, the Arab reaction. So the Royal Navy intercepted and captured the ships carrying desperate refugees. Many ended in Cyprus and other places living in squalor. Their only crime was that they were Jews. Besides that they did nothing wrong. Others made it to America where everyone wanted to be and immediately changed their names. Even today half of Hollywood has two names, their American ones and their Jewish ones. Why is that? How much fear must you have if you cannot and will not even try to make your way in life under your own name? It is either that or dishonesty to deceive people and then again, why? What do they fear or is it perhaps that they have reason to fear?
Why am I mentioning all this today as I look at the frost outside as winter started last night in this part of the world. It was below freezing. Simply because I always pray for those who is not under a thick sleeping bag in shelter when it is so cold and I think of the latest shame to hit South Africa, xenophobia. There are currently another Kristallnacht ongoing here. Foreigners (not Jews, mostly) who came here looking for a better life is being chased, burned, robbed, murdered and raped no doubt. They are attacked because they are foreigners and their businesses burned down and looted. It reminds me of something, ah yes, Kristallnacht and I wonder who is next. The white man, another tribe?
It is Adolf Hitler's birthday in a few days on 20 April. I remember because I have such a brain, I remember dates for no logical reason. Will our so called leaders stop this madness as Hitler did in 1938? Or do you think they will wring their hands and say how horrible it is but you know sht happens. I also know that everyone will now shout for the "Army" to get involved and in most countries that is a good idea. When the Police lose control the Army has to assist under Police command. However I am tempted to warn you here also. The Army is not trained for riot control and can only kill unlike the Police who are issued with mostly non-lethal weapons.
It is one of the statements I made in my Mean Streets Books which attracted a lot of foreign inquiries from professional liars (journalists to you). I said that through the years, if you look at the issued equipment, the feared South African Police Force Riot Units looked completely different from their cousins, the Counter Insurgency Units who killed 90% of all terrorists. Think about it, the Riot Unit had water cannon, shotguns with birdshot, Stopper rubber bullets and two R1 (FN SLR in the UK) rifles with them. And those R1's almost never fired and hence issued to the drivers or sergeant in charge. So they could not kill as much as say the Counter Insurgency lads who had only R1's and a MAG light machine gun with hand grenades and mortars and at times, heavy machine guns on their Casspirs and ground attack air support. Now I ask you, what weapons do the Army lads have? And you want them to kill everyone in sight? Is that your solution? Really?
The answer is better border controls to keep unwanted and foreigners away from us. We don't like people who are not like us; it is a tribal thing in Africa and no matter what you try to deny it, the fact remains that we look at others askew. And then when you add the undoubted criminal element, why else the looting, you bring this shame on us. This is not right, it is not what we stand for. What is next? Will we find Indian Navy warships next to our coasts to evacuate their citizens? I assure you, you will find the Israeli Navy if Jews are slaughtered as these people are. I believe the turning point was reached. I ask again, who is next?
I was driving last week, as you would know from my near constant complaints about the reckless drivers. However I was thinking of something else as I unpacked my overnight bag and thanking God for delivering me safely at home. Our lives have become rather complicated these days with all the gadgets we carry along when travelling. And I wonder if this is good or bad or even necessary to look like a pack mule when leaving the house.
Where are the days when your entire holiday baggage consisted of one sleeping bag without a pillow? Your rucksack or boot could be a nice enough pillow, thank you very much and pass the beer mate. Or the times when you did not need a fancy GPS to navigate your way to the beach. In those days you stopped at a garage, like in a fuel station, and asked where to go. If they lied to you the next stop is the Police Station who should know and take pity on you if your hair was short enough and you showed the proper respect. You also learned to listen very well to your host explaining on the landline, no such thing as mobiles, on where you should go and would learn to either listen to your wife (she knows best) or read a map or both.
Now luckily my late wife was a walking compass and always knew where she was going and tagging me along. I was so astonished at her navigation skills that I am still writing about it in my books. In our African male culture a woman is not really listened to when navigating with the result that we men get lost quite often. Obviously, no man will admit to this and merely shrugs explaining (seriously talking crap) that he wants to explore the freedom of the road or that perhaps the scenic route ain't that bad after all. If smart the wife will smirk knowingly and suggest that you turn left and then right and right again and voila, you have arrived. She may even make you feel good during the process, a recipe for a long and happy marriage.
I just love smart women. I am the type (rather rare according to some of my female friends) who falls in love with my wife's intellectual side first and foremost. Why I would not know. Perhaps I am not that smart myself and know my limitations in life but unless able to talk to her for hours and hours I will get bored and leave. So having had a woman as smart as Melissa was just great to me. That she could navigate her way in a strange country where we drive on the right side, that is the left side with the steering wheel on the right, was impressive. I also soon learned that she would have googled anything and everything before we got to the place and well able to judge whether I am smart or just pretending to be smart. Hence I googled it too, just to be on the same wave length. Sometimes I do think that we would have produced smart kids and I miss them...I often wonder what they would have looked like. With her looks I am sure quite agreeable.
She could also pack an incredible amount of stuff into small bags which brings me back to our topic of not traveling light anymore. These days we take the GPS with as the maps had long since been consigned to the rubbish bin. And the GPS is not only for the vehicle but also in handheld mode if possible. That I get as I recollect walking in London for hours searching the South African Consul before being kicked out for an uncalled for attack on me in Buckingham Palace. The damn place (Buckingham Palace and London) looks the same with horrible lonely trees (they tried to speak to me in Pommy and ignored my Afrikaans replies) standing around. And whatever Pakistani, now a distinguished Pommy Gent living on benefits, you asked for directions would direct you to the other end of where you wanted to go. I only got saved by taking a taxi back at vast expense and never left the hotel again. That was in the days before handheld GPS systems so I get this, it would have saved me a lot of walking and you reading about it.
Hence to be sure, a GPS is the best thing after flushing toilets and we have to thank that great American Ronald Reagan (my late wife rated him with John Wayne as her heroes) for GPS. It was he who released GPS onto the public after South Korean flight 007 (what an ironic number) got shot down in 1983 for straying into Soviet airspace. That caused the system to become publicly available and refined to what it is today. So we need the GPS and then, of course, we need the charger and the mental capacity to ensure it does not take us via the shortest but most dangerous routes. That happens often too, tourists and other blindly following the GPS into areas where they get killed, raped or robbed or all of those things.
On a lighter note, the same complexity happened over time with that good old tradition, the South African braai (barbecue). It is such a big event in our lives that I often write about it in my books and made very sure Melissa experienced it when she was here. There is no such thing as barbecuing burger patties with McDonald's chips (fries) in this country. That is not a barbecue in our eyes. In fact I am not sure what it is I admit since I never got the chance to experience it. No, we have genuine meat like steak, chops, ribs, wors (sausage) and salads if down in the Colony (Cape Town) and pap (maize porridge) and sheba (an onion tomatoe relish) if in the Transvaal (Gauteng). Chicken and fish were also left to weirdos with thin arms and no chest hair. You have to see it to believe it and these days you even use a proper knife instead of an Okapi (traditional German made pocket knife).
Women are also allowed at the fire which is unheard off in the old days. They should be in the kitchen talking to their mates who look like them. They may join the men afterwards but these days, blah, no such thing. They are there wearing their silly rugby jerseys and talk about dirty scrumming techniques as if they would know anything about grabbing your oppo by the unmentionables or smearing his eyes with deep heat when the ref is kept busy by someone else. They just don't get how complicate such behaviour is to the first attempt (men). I usually just shake my head and thank God she never understood the manly game of rugby or cricket and had no desire to do so either. In return all I needed to know is that we supported the Miami Dolphins and that was that.
There was a time in my life when the braais were uncomplicated affairs. You got invited and brought a crate of beer, a piece of wors (sausage) and the rest was a bit of a blur to be honest. These days it is not like that. If you have a wife (a gift from God I assure you) she would ask "what salad, what wine, what meat, when we leaving, when we coming home, what about the kids." If you are a widower like me you would ask the same in terms of what salad and wine to bring with to show your late wife had a positive influence. And yes your mobile goes with and your GPS and your laptop or IPad rubbish. After all, you have to be available (why?) all the time or you have to show someone this or that.
Where have the old uncomplicated days gone to? Days when I needed almost nothing when traveling except the desire to get where I wanted to be and money for gasoline. Days when life was easier and much less complicated than now and I could disappear for a few days or weeks even. I wish I could go back.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in hostage survival training and reducing legal risk in Sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters. Koos is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.