A while ago we had some break-ins here where I live. It is normal in South Africa to suffer from crime, I doubt if anyone living here will not have a story to tell or a family member abused, murdered, or otherwise done in. We have frightening statistics, a murder every 30 seconds, yes, before you finished reading here, a few South African will be dead.
I don’t want to point fingers, as a former policeman and officer of the court, it saddens me when people are contemptuous of the police, courts and justice system in general. You will always have a few bad apples which spoils it for the rest and my own bad experiences with the police are widely documented, I wrote about it and placed the links in my police series books. You can judge for yourself and if you are in a First World country and reading here, be grateful, you have a wonderful life no matter what you may think, you were born in a better place than me and millions like me. Yet, we carry on, we have no choice and I suppose, are used to what you would find unacceptable. We have no choice; it is the luck of the draw.
What we find now, because the police, courts and justice system (the entire one, civil and criminal) is seen to be crap beyond belief (it is not, debatable for another day), is the rise and rise of security companies which will sell you exactly the same security services. I can tell you what you do not find in South Africa - open spaces in cities. We have parks but you would be stupid to go there, simply too dangerous. You cannot even visit a grave of a departed loved one, the cemetery is known as a place where you are attacked and abused. You walk through a forest, yes, you are attacked, raped, and murdered, brutally so. This is reality and you will not, I assure you, walk up to a house and knock on the door easily either. No, you find six to eight feet high fences or walls stopping access, they have electrified wires on top, CCTV, guard dogs, floodlights, alarm systems and armed response guards able to come and help you – and this is normal middleclass homes. Not where someone important or rich lives, all houses look like that. The security industry grows as fast as tourism and the shysters there are worse than any bad hotel experience you ever had. Much worse indeed and there are many.
I mean you may still survive an upset stomach with food poisoning and yes, we know the sheets you sleep on in the “Honeymoon Suite” you got on special, may very well give you an itch and worse, if unlucky. And if you are American or an uitlander (Afrikaans, foreigner), every beggar will know you are easy to give money away and every wild animal will know it can eat you since you don’t realise they are wild and able to kill and will kill. Every year we will lose a few uitlanders and the lion must then be shot, unfairly so. All this you may well survive, but an armed intrusion, home invasion? Nah, chances are 70% that you will be raped, murdered and if not, tortured. This is actual statistics, you will do very well to read my article, it is only 70 pages, on Basic Home Security, I understand that it saved many lives worldwide.
Now I can tell you, there is no such thing as a writer honoured in his own community, not unless rich and famous. Nor would an expert be honoured, not unless he charges ridiculous fees. Yet, I know about security, I wrote on it, was the legal adviser for the biggest one in the world for a few years and I get how they operate. It is all in the article, Basic Home Security and so I will not repeat myself, you will shake your head when you read it, many others did, it is rather damming. The question is what rights under law do such a security company have?
Because of the two break-ins we suffered, the entire complex wanted to join a “Community Policing Forum” (CPF) which is an English Police system imported since 1994, obviously I think and said so, it is a crap idea and system which indicates failure with a capital F from the police. I served on one, by the way, as chairman and so I can tell you, nonsense, ineffective and to be avoided. Of course, you may disagree, you have that right. To answer the legal question on their rights, almost nothing. They, the security companies and CPF members are civilians, they have no power of arrest as does a genuine policeman and must fall back on a common law principle, a “citizens” arrest unless acting under direct instructions from a policeman who happens to be around and shanghaied them to help him. This also means that they cannot stop and search you, they have no such rights nor can they physically abuse you, threaten you or do anything illegal (no policeman can do the last, but he can search you, certainly, and without a warrant).
Why do I mention this? Some such members of a CPF did try to search some people, they found “dangerous weapons” which may be a knife, a stone, a club or a tank, I don’t know, and guess what? They were arrested and spend a weekend in jail for their good deed. The case is ongoing. So what do you think will the legal consequences be if a white man, in this country so obsessed with race, illegally search and detain a black man? The same as a black man, in this country so obsessed with race, illegally search and detain a white man? Nah, don’t kid yourself, the calls for racism is the “in thing” currently. Any type of criticism is seen as “racist” and that includes those trying to reduce crime. You are warned, rather walk away and hammer your insurers, it is a lost cause. No one from the police, courts or government is going to be appreciative or sympathetic to you. They will fall back on the “you should not take the law in your own hands, that leads to chaos” argument. And when white, and you detain a black, ah well, you are racist now! You will be arrested, most certainly. Let it go!
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.