Peter van der Merwe
Peter van der Merwe

Time to muzzle the blue-light buffoons

Turns out the head of South Africa’s blue-light loony brigade is feeling a bit unloved. Sniff. Sob. Let’s all cry him a river.

“The South African public doesn’t respect the vehicles of the VIP Protection Unit,” sniveled Commissioner Mzondeki “Sean” Tshabalala this week. Then, his voice cracking with bewilderment and emotion: “They simply refuse to move out of the way. There is a general apathy towards us.”

Tshabalala will doubtless excuse me if I don’t throw a consoling arm around his shoulder and tell him everything will be all right. Because if he doesn’t realise what a bunch of buffoons he presides over, then the man’s fitness for public office should be questioned.

It is his unit, after all, who just this weekend killed a pedestrian while escorting Jacob Zuma to a political rally in KwaZulu-Natal. Who shot out the tyres of a tardy peasant who didn’t get out of the way fast enough on the N3 late last year. Who last month threatened with a firearm and beat up an innocent man who got caught in the middle of their high-speed circus. Who every day irritates the living daylights out of law-abiding South Africans who happen to be going about their daily business.

In fact, if I am not mistaken, this is the same man who, in August, was involved in an accident with a police vehicle while allegedly under the influence of alcohol. Great example, commissioner. No wonder your people think they are above the law. They simply take their lead from you.

So here’s a question. Well, a few questions, actually. Why does your ridiculous unit even exist? Why is the government closing down the Scorpions, who actually fight crime, but keeping the VIP Protection Unit, who merely commit crime?

Why does any politician, whether that be Zuma or some pompous ass in provincial government, need the protection of a convoy of expensive vehicles manned by self-important halfwits? Since when was their time more important than ours? We all know, from our own painful experiences with government departments that time means nothing to civil servants. So why the rush to the airport, your next meeting, your afternoon liaison with your mistress, your cosy lunch with your golf buddies? Why can’t politicians just take one car and wait in the traffic like the rest of us?

But let’s not stop there. I’d like to know — and I’d really, really like to know — who authorises the purchase of the convoys of brand new Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Audi and even Porsche Cayenne vehicles for the sole purpose of protecting people who have forgotten their place in life.

Here’s a question for Trevor Manuel, our much-loved minister of finance, and by all accounts a man of the people. Tell us, Trevor: how do you justify spending hundreds of millions of rands on these blue-lighted prats when police stations around the country are understaffed, under-resourced and underpaid? How do you pretend to care about the poor when you’re buying dozens of Hummers and Jeep Cherokees to escort mysterious politicians down the highway? Don’t you think it pisses the public off when they see their tax money being spent in this wasteful way?

But back to you, commissioner. You say you want the respect of the public. So here’s my suggestion: disband your unit. Now. And redeploy the 14 000 personnel who are currently siphoning off valuable public funds that would be better spent on healthcare, education, housing and some real police work. I can guarantee you that the public will then give you the respect you crave. In bucket loads. More than you can handle, in fact.

OK, OK. I know that’s unthinkable to you and your masters. So try this instead: put a leash on your rottweilers. Get your storm troopers to start treating the public like the people who pay their salaries. Protect your spoilt little brat VIPs, if you have to. But do so courteously. Wait your turn in the traffic. Don’t tailgate innocent motorists. Keep your guns in your holsters and your egos in check. Then, commissioner, you will get some respect. Try it. If you dare.

  • Kit

    The South African public doesn’t respect the vehicles

    Well, excuse me, mate. I hadn’t realised that we had already imbued lumps of metal with personalities, feelings, lives. My apologies, I thought we were still working on the androids.

    One earns respect. What he’s talking about is FEAR. They don’t fear us enough.

    No, you’re right. We drive every day with an absolute monotony of terrible, moronic drivers of every shade, in every kind of vehicle of every size. So we don’t fear anything on the roads any more. Just getting to work used to be an exercise in fear; now we shut our eyes and ignore it.

    These blue-light convoys are an absolute menace – because they allow people to ignore sirens. Sirens are for emergency vehicles. They’re for that fire engine rushing to a house fire, that ambulance going to attend a drowning child, the police going to interrupt an armed robbery. We move for them – or we should. This stupid use of the device just makes people ignore them all.

    The flashing lights and the sirens need to be respected because they might just save our lives…except now they kill us. So we ignore them, like we ignore everything else, because if we didn’t, we’d just kill ourselves with the futility of it all.

  • Peter Win

    Brilliant article Peter !
    You’ve made my day !

  • Grant Walliser

    I was applauding by the end of the first paragraph and gave you a standing ovation by the end of this completely brilliant article.

    In so many ways, the blue light brigade is not just a traffic menace but a window onto the soul of the ANC. It shows us in a complete metaphor the power-hungry they have become, happy to squash the little man that put them there in the first place.

    One day, when the word “servant” is prefixed to the word “public” in the ANC vocabulary we may finally get some useable output from the elite who think they rule us like serfs in a fiefdom.

  • craig

    Servants of the people?

    They should drive ordinary cars for ordinary people. And given they are so utterly underaverage average would be a bonus.

  • Sarah Britten

    Hey Peter, may I quote you in my next insult book? Some of your comments would be perfect for my “Blue Light Gangs and Beemers” chapter.

  • Jonathan Haze

    Mr van der Merwe, your weird Eurocentric article shows a total disconnect with your environment. Where do you think you are? In Switzerland somewhere?

    These high speed blue light convoys reflect the very essence of culture, both here and on the rest of this continent. Expenditure to prop up delusions of grandeur is an absolute priority, whether its a president or whether its a mayor of poverty-stricken community.

    Who are you talking to? Do you think you are influencing the people who prop up Mugabe and elect Gaddafi? Your article is undiluted pathos.

  • Basil

    You see, we actually applied for the post of “vegetable farmer”. We just liked the thought of tending thick-headed cabbages, shovelling out bull/s(compost),crunching defenceless worms and other undesirable pests underfoot.Ever on the alert to squash bugs and insects, at will, which we figured might pose a threat to, or attack our precious cabbages…Riding high above the ground on big tractors, safe and cocooned. But somehow the system linked our competencies,desires and aspirations for tending vegetables to tending politicians. Far be it for us to question the system and besides, it’s a lot more rewarding we can talk to our cab-baggage although we don’t really understand what they are saying most of the time. But we are happy seeing them growing big-headed from all the compost they are being fed. Sometimes we dream about what it would have been like if the system hadn’t confused our applications and wonder whether things would have turned out any different if we had applied to be turkey farmers?…… Not that we have anything against farmers! We treat them in their 4×4’s and Mercs just like any other pest on the road.

  • Robert

    14000 clowns to protect the ring master and his stooges! If TM could be recalled surely we can recall some of the clowns and then redeploy them into the police!

  • OneFlew

    It’s just how things are done there. I doubt that it will change in your lifetime. Whinging about it is likely just to mark you as culturally alien. Adapt or die. Or leave.

  • Peter Van der Merwe

    Sadly, Mr Haze, I fear you are right.

    Sarah, I would be flattered and delighted to be quoted!

    Kit, you make an excellent point. That’s possibly the biggest indictment against the blue-light brigade: they make us forget what – and who – is really important. So we end up ignoring everything. Welcome to the slippery slope.

  • ddaydoll

    Oh YES Peter! And give us more of the same!
    I just hope these blue-lighted-baffoons dont have your car make and license number next time you share the same dash down the hi-way… In the light of you publically calling a spade by its name, maybe you will need protection of your own soon. How about we send round the hat to “rent” (for this read bribe) these very guys to look out for you?
    Those lights are not permanent fixtures, did you know? So I wont be surprised to see those cars parked outside some very unofficial business, talk about taking your work home…

  • Anne

    The need to shout out their importance underlines the weakness of the politicians who are ferried around by these prats (I like that description of them).

    It also shows what lily livered cowards our public servants are – they can’t move an inch with being protected.

    What really gets my goat is that some of them need an ambulance in their convoys. What on earth makes them believe that they are so important that their lives must be saved at the expense of everyone else’s? I’m left wondering if the amubulance is allowed to be used for any of the victims of these convoys – because that’s what it is most needed for.

  • anton kleinschmidt


    I hope you enjoyed writing the article as much as I enjoyed reading it.

  • Steve Woodhall

    Very good article and I agree entirely… but no chance of being listened to. Our politicians are just another bunch of Mugabes-in-the-making. He is a master of the murderous motorcade – not only huge Mercs and SUV’s but outrider motorcycles as well – wonder when our lot will get those? Zimbos refer to him and his gang as ‘Bob Mugabe and the Wailers’!

  • Alan in Botswana

    Yes, its funny how so called popular people (politicians) require extreme measures of protection from the people they believe love them. Perhaps they fear we will crush them in our rush to be close to their brilliance. Perhaps they are just as prattish as their protecters.

  • Tex

    I recall a few years ago the then prime minister of New Zealand was in trouble, front page style, because her convoy exceeded the speed limit to get her to an All Black match on time after some delays. Not only was this front page, but she apologised profusely, stating that she was not above the law … what I would give for that sentiment to lodge itself in the brains of the country’s current batch of “leaders”.

  • Alter-Ego

    Your ability with words is obvious … Your anger as obvious. My humble opinion … channel the energy you so clearly waste on stating the obvious into something which might make a difference ….somewhere..

  • Brenda

    You are a brave man Peter Van der Merwe.

  • Paul Alvarez

    Peter, I know we’re on the same wavelenght, so my piece submitted last night must have been even more sensitive than your article. It’s all true! I witnessed it! I could tell you more that would really make you nervous! Maybe another time!

  • Izak de Vries

    You are correct, Peter. So true! It was the only thing that was better under the mad crocodile.

  • Dennis Jackson.

    To Peter vd Merwe
    Absolutely BRILLIANT!! I loved every word!
    May I give you something else on the same lines to write about…
    This is a Media Release from SITE on 2nd Feb…

    The fight against unfair and unjust Traffic Enforcement

    The South African Institute for the Scrutiny of Inequitable Traffic Enforcement (SITE) has recently uncovered overwhelming evidence of traffic law enforcement corruption.
    It is clear that there are many regular and consistent incidences where the South African motoring public are being defrauded by the Metro Traffic Police – unfairly and possibly unconstitutionally. In the interests of the motoring public, this breaking and very topical news is currently being distributed to all South African media.

    In general, motorists are not aware that certain speed traps are set up at sites not approved by the National Prosecuting Authority for speed trapping. Many speed traps in Gauteng do not comply with the standards laid down by the Technical Committee for Speed Prosecutions (TCSP).

    The SITE Institute has evidence of unlawful trapping and manipulation of the prosecution photos.
    The date, time and speed of the alleged offence must by law, be recorded simultaneously on the photo.
    In addition, the aiming cross must be simultaneously imprinted on the photo image as per the TCSP guidelines. In many instances, this is not done or is superimposed later.

    There is now sufficient proof that certain Metro police are tampering with the speed camera images by electronically manipulating the aiming cross and data and adding the date, time and speed after the offence. This is ILLEGAL. Tampering or manipulation of evidence constitutes fraud and motorists are thus being fined illegally.

    Roadblocks are held regularly and it is clear that these are utilized inter alia to intimidate motorists into paying illegally issued speeding fines. Millions of rands are spent on caravans, buses, trailers, equipment etc. for these roadblocks.
    Metro Police are aware that by getting motorists to pay up as soon as possible, the motorist is unknowingly admitting guilt notwithstanding that the relative fine can be contested and is possibly unlawful.

    Please note that this statement is not a series of allegations based on myth and hearsay.

    All allegations and statements can be entirely supported by facts and hard evidence.

    The SITE institute has indisputable evidence of this deception, which is occurring on a widespread basis. What is briefly mentioned in this press release is the outcome of many hours of research, footwork and personal experience.

    The SITE institute is preparing to institute criminal proceedings for fraud against the Metro police.

    The Institute also intends approaching the Constitutional Court for an assessment and decision on the constitutionality of this practice.

    SITE, in conjunction with Via-Con, a traffic consultancy, has published a book, available in a CD- ROM. The book explores current issues surrounding speed trapping, traffic law enforcement and an individual’s rights as a motorist.

    The SITE executive members are more than willing to present the available evidence mentioned and are willing to elaborate further on the evidence of corruption in their possession.

    For further information, interviews or visual reference please contact the Executive President of SITE, Dennis Jackson on 083-497-6770, email [email protected]

    Issued by:

    The South African Institute for the Scrutiny of Inequitable Traffic Enforcement (SITE)

    Bessie van Antwerp – Media Liaison Officer

    Cell: 083-497-6770 (Via-Con)

    082-453-5969 (SITE)

    Email: [email protected]

    [email protected]

    Postal: PO Box 77 Welobie 1714

  • Judith

    Absolutey do our politicians and ANC party leaders require this amount of protection? They should be setting examples of good behaviour and good governance. Showing how people can move safely around the country where crime is not a problem.

    As a CPF member, I know just how that is not true and I can see no reason for the political elite being better protected than anyone else in a developing country.

    Get real guys, we have people dying here of poverty so stop wasting our tax money on your profligacy

  • john Bond

    How about the Armour Plated Mercedes (anounced on Monday) to protect youself from the blue light thugs. Note the optional extra of grenade proof floor. See also the half tonne load carrying capacity and the bullet proof tyres safe to 240 kph;do=show/site=a4e/alloc=1/id=9168/sid=e7947636872226d8e944753a9b50e53f

    You can even satisfy your green concience with the BlueEfficiency optional motor

  • Kit

    Half-tonne load-carrying capacity, nice. I laughed more at that than I have at anything else all week. Not sensible nor even really warranted, all that mirth, but thank you for the link, Mr Bond.

    Do you think there will be five or six so-called bodyguards in there with the driver and the Main Dude that they need this capacity? Or is the rear suspension about ten times tougher than the front?