You know or should know that law is for boring people and if insane it will help too, I am sure. Nothing is clear in law which makes it an absurd science. There is always a “but” or as the say a “caveat” so that you, the client, don’t get it and hence pay more fees. Yep, there are many ways to buy a new Mercedes for the wife and the secretary doubling up as mistress over Christmas. Jokes aside, we also have something called proportional defence against an attack.
You find it in the common law, from Roman times as well as in international law (the most boring subject after criminal law, my word, even for them). Let me explain and go back into history which is more interesting and have a look at 1980s South Africa. Yes, the good old bad days where everything worked and white women had no chest area, they had stars and the smell of teargas ever present if anywhere close to places like Tokoza, Soweto proper and a myriad of other places. The South African Police Force, of which I claim proud membership for six years, was keeping law and order and enforcing laws they had absolutely nothing to do with in creating. Now if you read my police books, known as the Mean Streets Series, all 1050 pages (well, that is the Afrikaans & English versions combined), then you will know I explain in some detail that a police force has zero ability to refuse to implement laws created and enabled by parliament. Unless a court order stops them, they are bound, by an oath (taken seriously) and law (even more serious) to implement the laws no matter how unfair. This should be simple to even a liberal but (see, BUT) they will then point to the Nuremberg Trials after the Second World War and state that “no illegal order must be complied with, in other words, it can and should be refused!”
Yep, I can see they don’t really get South African Police Force training, having not had the good luck of such an education in manners, discipline and indoctrination to win at any cost and always react violently. It is in the books and whilst a fair statement from the long haired brigade, in practise almost unworkable. I can tell you, and if your read the books you will understand, no junior member would ever argue the point too much and yet they were not automats or even stupid as many believed they were. In fact, they were following legal orders as defined at the day. But (see, BUT) and this is interesting, as the years went on, the ability of the Police Riot Units to kill, was taken away! Yes, very interesting and I myself realised it only when writing the books. You see now, in Africa, a police force is an army in disguise, well able to conduct counter terrorism and counter insurgency and the police killed 90% of all terrorists (as they were called at the time) in the South Africa Border War as well as an astonishing 98% inside South Africa. This made me wonder, why? And also, why not more? I have some experience in riots in those days and I simply looked at the weapons issued to the different units. The results were startling.
Yep, astonishingly, 80% of a Riot Unit section, of ten men or you can make this a thousand men, does not matter, it stays at 80%, had no weapons to kill humans with. Only 20% had assault rifles, the ever present R1 known as an FN or SLR (later R4 and R5 Galil), the rest, shotguns and birdshot and the 37 mm Stopper. Besides the assault rifles, no chance to kill anyone at a long distance. On the border area with counter insurgency, the police patrol could only kill. All had R1 rifles with a MAG light machine gun, hand grenades, white phosphorous grenades and the ability to call in airstrikes as well as mortars. So what happened? The police generals took away the deadly force weapons and got themselves a doctrine in how to respond to rioters. You could not arrive and open fire, that is nonsense unless something else happened, something life threatening. The crowd had to be warned to leave, in three different languages and give time to leave, reasonable time, and have an avenue to escape. If not, the officer in command faced criminal charges from the over eager legal turds willing to help the innocent for a very large fee paid for by the international community of liberals, churches and other concerned idiots. Yet, they saved considerable life and limb by implementing these rules and it came down to proportional response as demanded by the law and it is a fair system.
BUT (here we go) it is not that simple. What it means, in real life, in simplified English (I should teach law, it is so easy to explain) it means that if someone attacks you, you cannot just respond and kill the fellow. No, you have to up your defences in stages and not go overboard. You get? Look at the riots. First the warnings (with the escape avenues, enough time, and in a language understood by most), then teargas, then perhaps a good old-fashioned baton charge, then birdshot, and only then (and almost never) you are able to use deadly force. If these steps are not followed, and you cannot prove they were attacking you and trying to murder you, you will be found guilty of murder or whatever else harm you caused.
So what do you think of Turkey, shooting down a Russian bomber after 17 seconds in its airspace? Not attacking Turkey, not even inside Turkish airspace anymore when the missiles were fired and unable to defend itself against a F16 Fighting Falcon? Proportional? No, never and if Russia takes this to court, and they might, Turkey will pay millions in compensation. Is this a reason for war, an “act of war,” yes, absolutely and many expected such a declaration which would have brought NATO in immediately! Did they really give ten warnings as claimed by the excuse makers in the White House? The answer does not matter in law, where is the proportional aspect of this? Ten warnings, really, in 17 seconds, and then open fire with deadly force? On an aircraft already leaving your airspace? Which constituted no threat? Hallo, wake up and go on your knees and say thank you that Russia don’t destroy you utterly. This is pathetic in law and common human decency and trying to defend it shows clearly, you could not have been a very good lawyer and politics a logical choice then.
My wife, time flies, I was busy the last year, trying to carry on with life without you, my soul. In my grief I typed fifteen full length books with codes in them for you to smile about, there I have control and you cannot die. As I write, I look up from the screen as I do now and I see you smile at me as I tell the stories to you first. And whenever I see you, you are healthy, thin, smiling and always happy – your beautiful self as I knew you when we first met and fell in love. I can tell with a glance that you are in a better place and that you are safe from the evils of this world - this aspect of your departure gives me much comfort. One day I will join you as I said in our latest book: “The day you died was the worst day in my life, ever, but the day I die will be the best day ever, because I will be with you.” And we will be one again, this time for a thousand years and then eternity and in the presence of our Lord. It is written and that is what faith means, to believe where others have no hope and they are lost. We are not lost Missa, your death gave me hope, is that not ironical, my wife? Yes, I see you smiling. You always get me, more than anyone else.
In the last year I have learned not to hate. God knows how, because I don’t, it is only grace. I found peace and forgave those who harmed you – our Lord Jesus will deal harshly with them and I do not wish to be in their shoes when they suffer the second death, deservedly so unless they repent. I forgave those who could not even get themselves to have the decency, expected from man, to say they were sorry that you went to heaven on 21 May 2014 before your time, as far as I am concerned. I can tell you, the longing for you and the sadness never leaves me. Not a day has gone past where I did not think of you and sometimes I stare at your pictures and wonder what could have been had life been kinder to us. Nevertheless, all in all, I am good and carrying on. I have faith and thus I have hope for us. There is no need for you to worry about me. Death is nothing but an inconvenience to souls.
You know that you cannot be replaced in my heart where you are honoured and treasured. One point six million words and more I wrote to say how much I loved you, I then realised our love cannot be put in words and it is anyway pointless because you know and I know and so it is. We know. As the years pass people will forget and the hurt will become less, but your legacy will never leave this earth as long as our books are read. The readers know what a wonderful soul you are. Yes, you still get fan mail as “my American Patriot” and I still translate your letters where needed, and read them to you. And I give the codes in the other books to your sister and friends, so they know, exactly where we honoured you. But this must be clear, my wife, none of our books or any other honour can ever be worth more to me than your words: “I love you” or “K is my husband” or “Your wife, Melissa.”
If I could I would have given you my life so you could live, but it was not to be. My request was denied and with God there is no appeal procedure, I accept that and patiently await a better place for us. A place where there is no dividing ocean, no sickness and no tears. And so… Happy 29th Birthday, Melissa. I love you. Always.
Do you know when a country lost its soul? It is what happens when we start cheering murder! Yes, when the police execute someone in cold blood, even after a shootout, it is murder in law and for damn good reason. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies” said Plato in The Republic and you may well take good note of this: “Who will guard the guards themselves?” When first written, not by Plato, but by Juvenal, it had to do with ensuring marital fidelity which was a concern then (as it is now). You know about Roman Orgies? Yeah, not conducive to marriage fidelity now and prostitution, male and female, was an integral part of the Roman Empire. However, the phrase came to be known as a warning against abuse of power.
I was a policeman for six years during the middle eighties and wrote extensively about my experiences in the Mean Streets Police Series (1050 pages, I counted the other night – I must have been bored) and I know about police killings. Since then we found out in great detail how the evil system of Apartheid turned good and honourable men into something they should never have become. One tried to defend his actions by stating he “fought fire with fire” and hence extra-judicial killings are allowed. Listen to me, you are wrong and plainly stupid to think that the courts and legal justice system should be overridden for any reason, who the hell are you? The Judge, Jury and Executioner?
Let us go back into history and see what happens when warnings are ignored. Let me quote US Civil War General William T Sherman to you in a conversation he had with Professor David F. Boyd at the Louisiana State Seminary (24 December 1860) – note this is before the US Civil War started:
“You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”
We have today in court four policemen accused of executing a wounded suspect they should have arrested. Yes, the bastard shot at them first (I say this from what I read in the news reports) and probably deserves death, but not like this. No, it can never be right and we should never go that way again! I know your arguments, I supported them once myself, and I will quote from my book “Mean Streets – Life in the Apartheid Police (Book 2) The Mean Streets, p 280
“Many times we swore we will kill the criminal next time because the courts did not deal with them in the way we thought it should. I believe this is a common view of any frustrated policeman and frequently only his inbuilt discipline will prevent such acts. This went one step further when the Security Police approached me to join a Unit which specialised in the “terminating of terrorists” through a commissioned officer I trusted. I seriously considered it for I liked the idea of killing terrorists and could morally justify it by saying “Well, let us say we have a source in place and if we arrest the terrorist he will be blown. But if we kill the terrorist, everyone is happy and the source safe to prevent more attacks.” Such ideas, at the time, made sense to me and I felt quite proud that the captain spoke to me about my feeling on the subject. I heard vague rumours about the unit and, of course, knew of his former commander who joined the ANC in London telling the whole world about the SAP "hit squads."
The SAP generals explained to us that he talked rubbish since he suffered brain damage being a known diabetic. In spite of this very eloquent explanation we knew that terrorists may be killed after arrest and tacitly approved for the reasons mentioned above. I will never blame the policemen who pulled the trigger - the Nationalists who gave the order are the ones to blame. Those policemen were only the instruments of their abuse but we spoke about it before in Book 1.
I can tell you such thoughts are very dangerous. Luckily a family member persuaded me not to volunteer by telling me the war is about over and Mr Mandela will be released soon. I am grateful to him today even if I thought then he must be mad and a long haired liberal saying such things. But he was right! I also had a long argument with my dad about this when I said: “Dad, why not just kill them and save the court, society and prisons a lot of distress.” Unlike the Chaplains, he did not only shake his head in disbelief, but gave me a long lecture on natural justice and that it would be morally wrong. “Moreover, such action is murder in real life. Did I join the SAP to commit cold blooded murder? Who decides on who lives and dies? No, arrest them and bring them to the court to deal with and be grateful you don’t judge them for they have good reasons for acting the way they do.”
I also note we like it when a criminal is shot dead by the angry house owner (I myself jeer at that, it is thoroughly deserved) but note, this is not right. We should not love death. We should get this country to a place where such things are shocking and not something to be pleased about. Obviously, the failure is not with us - it is with leadership. How do we explain to uitlanders (Afrikaans, foreigners) that we now have more riots than in Apartheid? Or that we cheer happily when the police execute a criminal? Stop, and think, and pack your bags but do not love death – is not normal. Do not walk this road again!
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.