What do you expect from the police when you are robbed and all your belongings you carry with you are stolen? Right: to go to the police station and lay charge and get a case number. That’s the theory but it seems that even that simple truth is not always working properly in South Africa.
One of our HOPE Community Health Workers was robbed on the street and with all her belongings also the new tablet just received was taken from her. The tablet, a donation from the Consulate General in Cape Town was insured and so it seemed to be a clear-cut case besides the trauma of being robbed: to go to the Police Station and report the incident and to get the case number for the insurance company. Not so with the South African Police Force. According to them, a tablet can only be reported stolen if one has the number of the SIM Card inserted into the tablet. But what happens if you don’t have a SIM card because your tablet should work only with wireless and there is no need for a SIM card. Well, according to the police their form has a field requiring the SIM card number and the consequences are clear: no SIM Card – no robbery case number.
One would think that policemen are able to think outside the box, but it took 8 different policemen during 11 days to archive the goal: getting a case number – and it needed finally the threat of our outreach facilitator to camp inside the police station until she gets the case number to make it happen.
What do we learn of it: Giving a police officer a form to fill in can be dangerous in South Africa… and there is a long way to go to get people to think on their own or to apply common sense. One of the most dangerous pitfalls in the training and education of South Africa is that repetition is all it need to pass – to think of your own is not only not required but even not wanted. The consequences are obvious and annoying to those having just gotten out of a dangerous situation and then not able to lay charge because of formalities. About police I can share another story just coming to my mind.
I remember being stopped by a policewoman in the North-West Province for not stopping correctly at a four – way stop. I was asked to step out of the car and the fine form was filled in. Question of the policewoman: “What is your profession?” Answer: “I am a priest.” Question: “Is that a profession?” My answer: “Yes” – Follow up question: “How do you spell that?”
Funny? – Well, depends how you see it – but it is better than having to buy chicken wings for hungry police officers to get off the hook while stopped for a traffic offense in Johannesburg.