You will know that I drove into a scene of two black policemen abusing a white woman in March this year and reported it. What is sad about it is that almost no one believed anything would come from my complaint and most of the comments made to me in private reflected this state of affairs. It seems that the South African Police Service has no known reputation left or not one which any police service would want to have. The comments were not just negative - they were downright hostile and this from many former police officers who watched the steady decline of a beloved police force for two decades now. I get their anger and frustration.
I have always maintained in my police books that we need to be careful on how we look at things. Just because I found two cowards is not to say that they are all like that. Nope, you do find good policemen and my complaint sort of proved it to me. So what happened? Well in short I saw these two clowns shouting verbal threats at a woman for reasons I don’t get but suspect it was because they were parked without official reason on a disable parking and they were there to buy food for two passengers, females, whom I doubt very much should have been in a police vehicle in the first place. You can read my statement here if you had not done so already.
So what happened after I lodged the complaint? Nothing, for 45 days I did not get a positive response besides two emails here and there and the first one after three whole weeks acknowledging receipt. Even that one could not spell “associates” which is indicative of what was to come from police headquarters. Pathetic service or cover up? You decide since I know what I think and I am waiting for a reasonable explanation (there is none) on why it took so long to do something positive. From a public relations (lol, as if they have any) view they also failed dramatically as they knew about the incident and lost a golden opportunity to restore confidence. I am not surprised by this at all, I expected disappointment and I got disappointment.
But surprise surprise, after the 45 days the members of Honeydew SAPS called me and suddenly we saw the police in action with a proper investigation done immediately after they were informed, belatedly, from police headquarters, about the incident. There were many phone calls and feedback and it created no doubt that there are still some good policemen left. I dealt with them. They were polite, to the point and took the trouble to speak Afrikaans though the statement is in English and you expect to speak Pommy when conducting business or anything else. Afrikaans has lost its power and it will continue to go down. Of that I have no doubt. Just the other day we read that my old university once reckoned to have the best law faculty in the country, is now trying to switch to English only. Now this is in the middle of the Free State Province which is as Afrikaans as Holland is Dutch or France is French. Almost no one is able to speak English properly here including me. It is the right choice but is leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
I don’t mind the switch to Pommy to be honest but on condition then that no other language is spoken, published, presented on television and we all speak English. No problem at all and obviously it never will happen. We will cling to our traditions and languages and keep on misunderstanding each other. Of that I have zero doubts either and I don’t believe things will get better here. It will become more corrupt and Apartheid will be blamed a thousand years from now for whatever happens then. I find the “positive ones” among us rather silly and wonder in what world exactly they live. They had obviously not yet lost their jobs and joined the ranks of the unemployed because of affirmative action. Nor do they understand what being poor really means. However, that is their problem and let them live in cuckoo land.
To get back to the police problem we can learn a lesson here…if you are abused and you keep silent and you cannot be found to testify you have only yourself to blame when nothing happens. Without a complainant they can do nothing and so it is in life. I had often said in this blog and my legal books that the law is neutral. Unless you use it to defend yourself or to enforce your legal rights you cannot complain or say “the law is not working.” No, the fault lies with you who did nothing. When you are faced with racist abuse, do something about it. Take statements from people who saw it and get it on video. In this case the investigating team could not find anyone except me willing to talk. Hence the matter is finalised and the two cowards got away with it. This is not the police’s fault - this is the way the legal system works.
I am not concerned. I have been around the block a few times and I know what natural justice is. Those two clowns are going to insult the wrong person and get the hiding of their lives or they are going to do it where the public will stand up and they will be fired from their jobs. They got away with for now because of a lack of evidence but be warned it will not always be like that. Today I feel like Pontius Pilatus, I wash my hands on this affair and consider it closed. Justice was not done but justice is neutral. Report such incidents or stop complaining and emigrate.
My wife, it is a funny thing how dates work. What is for some a wonderful day is for others a day from hell. For me, 21 May, will always be a day from hell...it is one year since my wife went to our Lord and I have frequently wondered as it approached what I will say in this blog. It is not easy to find the words. What can you say when your hopes and dreams and the love of your life goes to a place which you know beyond doubt is better than this cruel earth, but you are left behind, alone and in a mess with a broken heart? I don't know really. Everyone reacts to grief in his own way. For me, I write books with codes in them which you will understand. Most won't and what do I care? I know and you know and sometimes I will tell your friends and sister about the codes and why I did so. Other times I keep the codes to myself and smile about the memory it evokes in me. It is like looking at your pictures, which I often do and I get lost in thought or reminiscences so vivid I only realize I lost track of time when the computer or cell phone screen goes blank and I see my own face with a smile on it. Yep, I had never seen your picture without smiling and feeling blessed to have known you.
I said it often and will say so again, even if I write a million words they would still be inadequate to say how much I loved you and still do. You used to say to me I "am your air" but the fact is you were my air also. So, I don't have the words to say this sucks beyond belief and I miss you, every day, every moment and I am tired of people (well meaning) saying to me "carry on, old chap." I am carrying on as you expect me to do and it is by the grace of God alone. Still, I wish it was different. I really wish you would still be alive and hold my hand and I could hear your voice saying "Hi Honey." Yeah I miss that too. I never expected not to die first. I am the man and older than you. In all normality and expectations I should had gone first and did not. It puzzles me, what on earth is so important that I needed to stay on? I am sure I will find out but know this, if I could have exchanged places with you so that you could live, I would have. In fact, I offered my life to our Lord to spare you but He decided differently and I accept that.
I decided and kept my vow never to argue with our Lord about this aspect of you leaving. He gives and He takes back the prettiest flowers first...it is His prerogative and in a way I am glad I am past this. Many reading here will face this one day and know this, you reading here are in my prayers. We can learn many lessons and the first one is faith as is the second and the third. It is all about faith. Without faith I would not have survived and I know in my heart we will meet again in a place without hunger, sickness or hatred. A place where love is abundant and there is no ocean or silly visa people between us and where nothing can part us again.
I cannot wait to get there and will leave the moment I am allowed to do so, but not before. Hence this not the end and I often wonder what I will say to you when we meet and embrace. That I am sorry I did not do more and could not do more, yes, I will say that. That I tried my best and yet I could not save you, yes, I will say that and apologise. But above all I will thank our Lord for giving me hope when there was none. To be sure I will tell you about a girl in Port Elizabeth who talked to me for months and told me to write, which kept me sane. I will tell you about a widow in Pretoria who showed kindness and friendship to me without reason and I will tell you, since I remember everything and forget nothing, of the hundreds of letters you got from people all over the world who read our books. I will tell you, my wife, of your many friends who contacted me to say what a wonderful person you were and how your memory will never fade. And you know I will always honour and love you no matter what happens further in my life. Whatever I achieve will be worth less to me than stating "Melissa was my wife." Nothing will ever replace you in my heart where you are safe and loved. I can tell them who knew and loved you that I saw you three times this year as unlikely as this sounds. You looked radiant, happy and full of life and you were always smiling so I know you are happy where you are. I will join you one day when I have done what is expected of me. Be patient my wife, I will arrive and hug you and we will be "us" again.
When it is silent at night I often wonder what our kids would have looked like and if I could have been a good father to them. In fact I am sure with your help I would have and been able to be a good husband to you. Such is life and I do not regret one moment with you or loving you. Not one and want you to know that, I love you for many reasons besides the fact that you are my soul and all I ever wanted in a wife. You saved my life three times. First when you got to me when I was in desperate need for friendship and love from my soul. That I was broke did not matter to your great heart that alone says everything about you in a harsh world where dog eats dog and the poor are kicked into the gutter. Then you got me to breath properly and with your love chased the nightmares away as I described in one book. For the first time in fifteen years I could sleep and I lost 125 pounds because of it and feel like a new man. You also encouraged me to write and I still do. I wrote nine full length books which are widely read and I still imagine you sitting across me as I type and I see you smile. Without you I would not have bothered to write even a blog. And lastly you gave me a reason to take heaven and God seriously. Before your departing I did not consider eternal life as any reward worth chasing. But now, I understand so much more and this is what I live for. My priorities are not in this world and never will be again. I pity those who scramble like rats for nothing and abuse their blessings on selfish things. They will one day get a terrible awakening and it will be too late.
Do you know my love, some of our American readers said to me you were the last good American woman left and I found you or rather you me? I don't believe that, by the way. I believe there are many like you and many like me, decent people but such comments do make me proud to have had the honour to hold your hand and see the love in your green eyes. Yes, it means a lot to me and hence I don't care that there are probably many alive today who deserve death a lot more than you. To me it shows the mercy of our Lord to give them more time to change their ways. So this is not a road I wish to go on to, I do not doubt our Lord did what was right and I will get the reasons later. At this stage I just know I will get to you at some stage and this cannot be taken away from me.
I have gone completely grey in the last year, shrug, it happens they tell me when you grieving. I have deep lines in my face which I never had before. But you know what? I have a great many happy memories because of you and I have hope. More than this I cannot ask for and you should not worry about me. I am good, my wife, you can rest in peace until I find you again. You will always be my "American Patriot."
I was not close to my father as a child as horrible as that sounds. The man was distant and a rather forbidding figure most of the time but then I am not close to any family except my mom. We did our own thing as children and it is my personality to be a loner by nature. As the years went on and I became a man I realised what a good man my father was. He could laugh at full volume and had a great sense of humour not usually associated with regional court magistrates (like a district court judge in American). Mind you, he had no known sense of humour in court. It is not a humorous place.
I remember a few incidents about him which I am sharing with you since it is his birthday on 16 May. He would have been in life 79 years old. However he passed on from asbestos cancer in 1994 at the age of 58. His coming birthday date is also a sad day for me or was last year. First my mom collapsed and I had to take her to intensive care. On the very same day my wife went into intensive care from which she did not emerge and she went to the Lord on 21 May. I will write about that on 21 May and yes I hate that day with a passion which is hard to describe. All my dreams came to an abrupt end but anyway, another blog another day.
One of my first memories of my dad was him playing cricket in the Caprivi and making a few runs. How good a cricketer he was I would not know as I never saw him play again. Apparently he played good tennis and taught me to play golf. Well, he tried. All I learned on a golf course was that I knew curse words he did not know I knew and he reacted predictably if not plainly shocked. I never took to the game or any other - I would rather read a book or do something useful. I am afraid I did not share his love for rugby either and he supported the Griquas team since he came from the Northern Cape where his parents were well-known farmers. I never knew them either as they died before I was born. We Kotze's don't live long and God be praised for that. I don't get the constant search to live forever and think there is something wrong with your relationship with God if you don't want to leave. I would not want to stay one second longer on earth then what is really needed and required.
I remember flying from the Caprivi, the Air Force had an airstrip (it was not more than that but neatly kept and tarred at least) called Mpacha. I was about ten years old and this was great fun as we flew in the old South African Air Force Dakota's (known as kotskoetse and the DC3) as well as more modern Hercules C130 transport airplanes to Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria. I hated Pretoria on sight with its horrible smelly air, strangely materialistic people, millions of cars, tar roads, cafes where the Portuguese oom (Afrikaans, uncle) did not know my name and robots (traffic lights). I could not wait to get back to Katima Mulilo where everyone did know my name or at least my dad's.
That is still a problem by the way. Wherever I go and I introduce myself the first question is whether I am related to Magistrate Kotze? In those days and in smaller towns most people respected the police sergeant (a dangerous fellow at the best of times), the school principle (an idiot of note) and the magistrate above even the dominee (Afrikaans, reverend). So he is known and he was a superb legal scholar. In later years when I studied law properly I read his verdicts and had it printed. Though outdated now (the law must always change to confuse the public, then lawyers are needed) it clearly shows a legal mind which understood law. That is not a common thing in a profession where confusion rules and men get tears in their eyes over the meaning of one word or athletes shouting like a girl. They are exceedingly boring people, lawyers, ask me I was one long enough and my family still are. It was my father's dream to practise law with my brother (an outstanding lawyer) and myself (not so brilliant). This unfortunately was cut short by his untimely death.
I remember that day when he passed. We had extended "family" with us who I chased away soon after. When you live next to the sea or in Bloemfontein, which is in the middle of the country and so flat you can see the future three days away, you get used to "family" packing off. However that was not the time and they left and good riddance too. I assure you, when you experience the death of someone close to you you don't want to be bothered with crap and people overstaying there welcome. There are some mountains you climb alone.
The military aircraft we flew in were not empty. At times the wounded soldiers lay on stretchers hanging from the roof with medics all around them. This included drips and blood transfusions. I saw a few body bags at the rear where the suitcases were stacked and asked my father about it. He looked rather uncomfortable and replied "life is not in our hands, God decide." It made no real sense to me then but today I get it. You really need to live every day to the fullest as you don't know what happens tomorrow. Besides that is was great fun flying with the Air Force and I sat with the pilots many times as they puffed on their pipes and talked rugby and politics with dad. As a child, in those days, you kept quiet unless spoken to though it must be said he was not a violent man at all.
Then one day he shot a magnificent hole in the wall of our house. Every male member in that town was armed against terrorist attack (a very real possibility) and he chose to have an automatic shotgun he obviously did not quite understood yet. Everyone else chose a SLR or R1 rifle which was the standard Army and Police combat rifle at the time. The shotgun was an interesting choice and I asked him why. He did his military service in the Signal Corps back in the middle 1950s or twenty years before this. At that time they used the old (read ancient) World War Two .303 Lee Enfield. Still he knew how to shoot and was a crack shot on the hunting field and he certainly knew how to handle a R1 rifle which is semi or full automatic and in .308 calibre. So why the 12 gauge shotgun? He said he is the man of the family and needs the shotgun to protect his family in his home. For that purpose a shotgun, even if not Gucci, is perfect. At short range and in the dark when most attacks occurred he chose the correct weapon. I learned a lot from this in life - always do what is right for the situation. The rest is crap.
And then I remember him clapping hands as I came stumbling in after running the King Williams Town Willy Waddle or whatever they called the charity run. I was just out of the Police College and our strange lieutenant offered the opinion that we youngsters (he was an ancient 27) would surely keep the South African Police Force's name high. And so I came in at number 179 which is not exactly last but nothing spectacular either. It was the first and only time my dad saw me on the sporting field. He also never saw me graduate with law degrees or the publication of my first book or the birth of my son who would never know him. Regretfully he also never met Melissa as I believe they would have enjoyed each other a lot.
In later years I remember deep conversations on law or politics or whatever, the man had an encyclopaedic knowledge on anything and when he talked men kept quiet to listen and learn. I wish I could be like that, that men would listen, not because they pay me and I get paid by the minute but because I talk sense.
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 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.