Yesterday I read that Roelf Meyer stated South Africa is not a failed State. He is right, we are not and not even close. I worked in Nigeria for a couple of years and that country too is not a failed State and I have seen genuine failed States. It is a horrible scenario. But I am tempted to say the word “yet” when I look at the excuses being thrown around by the liberals for what happened last week. I believe they suffer from closed eyes and delusions which come with a nice paying job and no idea what the rest are going through.
I also wonder - when you see a train smash coming…if you should then smoke a last cigarette whilst waiting for it because it has not happened yet. Theoretically you are quite safe waiting for the oncoming train. I mean until the time that it actually hits you, you are indeed quite safe. What about that old joke that it is not falling which is the problem when your parachute fails, it is the landing part which is going to hurt. I am sure you get my point. We are not a failed State yet and perhaps we never will be one. I sure pray for that but am sceptical and with reason.
Do you know what is our parachute or the tow vehicle to get us away from the oncoming train? It is the legal system and the Constitution of South Africa. Now back in the early 1990s when we got the new Constitution and the Bill of Human Rights I was a law student. I just left the police after serving honourably for six years – you can read about it in my Mean Streets Series which apparently is considered by many to be as close to the South African Police Force you as a non-member will ever get. That Series, by the way, is not really my autobiography or only about me, I was not that important or even special but it combines many stories from other members and gives a good account of history.
At university we studied tens of thousands of pages of legal doctrines and it came down to two things. (1) Know your client always or almost always lies to you or at least tells his tale to make him look better and (2) do your research and think on your feet, read between the lines and understand what is happening. The rest was just book knowledge which you must have to advise those smart enough to leave the law to people actually interested in it. Such people I am sad to admit is mostly boring in the extreme and we often joke about it in my legal books. I remember my late wife one day earnestly saying to me “she forgives me for studying law and I might be less boring than other lawyers because of my police background.” It was rather endearing. But all jokes aside, what do you do when your parachute fails?
Man, you are in deep trouble (I was tempted to use another word which smells). When falling at terminal velocity you may remember you instructor stating seriously, they have no sense of humour known to mankind, “Now lad, just remember the old virgin position, yes keep your knees together you f twat.” And would you know, some survived by doing this, it is good advice. And when the legal system fails you? As it often does, you only have to listen to the lawyer jokes and tails of horror I am sure you heard about before. Yes the time when you were stupid enough to take his word and not read the contract yourself. Or when you did not ask questions to understand what he was saying (a great way of making money, if people get the law there is no need for lawyers). Or when your marriage fails (it happens more often than not) and you lose half of your possessions if lucky and are sentenced to pay support for life if unlucky. In this case the law did not fail you - you failed yourself by not talking divorce before you got married. And really, you should see the signs (the cross if lucky and the middle finger if not) when you say to an engaged couple you need to talk divorce proceedings before you get married. You can read about that in my book The Circle of Life, it is entertaining.
If you are bored enough to read any of my legal books you will see that I maintain the law is neutral. What this means is it is a piece of paper and of no use to you unless you abuse or use the law to your favour. It cannot help you by just being there, not practically speaking it cannot. Take for instance murder, the law says it is illegal but does that stop murderers? Nope, it does not and this is a very simple explanation as Criminal Law is the most boring of all legal subjects to me. However when you get to Civil Law (something no policeman knows anything about) it get more interesting and when it comes to Human Rights, man then it is absolutely crucial to your survival.
Now I am from a Human Rights Law Firm, probably the most famous one in Africa. I started there as a young attorney at the age of 30 years. It was the last place I saw myself ending at and I left after about two years to try my luck on my own as I started the Forensic Law revolution, see my book, Memories of a Roque Lawyer if interested. When I say to you that what happened last week when the High Court was ignored by the Government and it is the end I mean it. Unless the courts can protect you by being your parachute you are in deep deep trouble. Imagine a failed State where there are no courts, no law and only the barrel of a gun to maintain order. That my friend is what is coming unless the courts get control and respect back. They may be boring people but they are tough and smart and will not take this lying down. There are many fights ahead as I assure you I am not the only one feeling like this and you will see punch ups of note in the coming years. But my question is do you see the train coming? Do you hear the warning whistles and do you see your parachute stringing above you and not deploying. Do you know what to do now?
I have news for people like Roelf Meyer and the rest who sees great things in the Rainbow Nation as if nothing is wrong – there are two groups here in this country of ours. The political and social elite who have a wonderful life in cloud cuckoo land. Keep on dreaming mate, you may wake up or may not, I don’t care. And then there are those who are desperately poor unable to function like normal people. Many hundreds of thousands had lost their jobs and have no way to recover from it. Some say the job losses are millions, the unemployment figures certainly are more than double what happened in the Great Depression. The ones who left are paying taxes to new governments, it is hurting us. I spoke to someone the other day who said to me if those emigrants stayed on we would have had a growing economy in real terms unlike what we have today. So make your excuses, explain your reasons, it is extremely amusing to me and the rest who are not privileged. I am cutting loose and pulling my reserve parachute. I know what happens when you lose your job and income, you wake up to reality.
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.