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Innocent until proven guilty — unless Fifa’s in town

So here we go. In the 1990s we had Kitsburghers (instant citizens) who could vote in the referendum, followed by Kitskonstabels (hastily half-trained policemen to help in the fight against crime). Now we have Kitsgeregtigheid, or instant justice, to ease the way during Fifa’s subjugation of our fair land. Steal a cellphone on Monday morning, attend the court case in the afternoon, and start your five-year sentence on Tuesday. Rob a foreign journalist at midnight, and you’ll be behind bars before noon and in your very own long-term cell within 48 hours. Wear an orange mini in the evening, and have your passport confiscated virtually on the spot. Then pay R10 000 bail, if you have it, to get out for the night.

A 88-year-old friend of mine was attacked in his house by a gang of thugs about a year ago. They clubbed him to the floor, jumped on his chest and kicked him soundly before departing with his cellphone and house keys. He phoned his daughter who called me and I went around to the house with her. She took the old man to hospital and I stayed in the house, which could not be locked because the keys were gone. The cops were called early on in this affair, and a car eventually arrived from Pinetown police station. I walked to the gate to meet the two rather rotund officers and they asked where the victim was. “Oh,” said they, writing a cell number on a piece of scrap paper when I told them. “Give us a ring when he gets home.” Then they left.

That made me wonder. How did they know that I wasn’t the assailant, and the old man wasn’t lying dead inside the house? Why couldn’t they be at least slightly interested in who I was and what I was doing there, and why didn’t they take a look around inside the house? Was it because I was white? The cops were both black, but the thought did cross my mind that they might have made an assumption based on race. Anyway, we never saw them again, and about 10 days later the old man’s daughter took him to the police station to lay a charge. No arrests have been made, and why am I not surprised?

Fast-forward to the World Cup and suddenly our cops are all efficiency — as long as foreigners are involved, anyway. One thing I have to wonder about, though, and perhaps Traps can comment on this: are the alleged bag snatchers and armed robbers and petty thieves getting a fair deal, what with all these special courts and the new-found enthusiasm for law enforcement and the swift punishment of offenders? How does a person facing perhaps 20 years inside prepare a defence on the same day that he’s arrested, and can what follows really be called a fair trial? If they can’t afford a lawyer they should be offered legal aid, and any half decent attorney would surely ask for the case to be remanded while he or she confers with the accused and prepares a proper defence?

I don’t believe South African taxpayers get a fair deal in terms of protection from criminals at the best of times, and the fact that most of our law-enforcement resources are now tied up either fighting with recalcitrant security guards at stadiums or taking over their duties of protecting the Fifa circus bodes ill for our safety in the suburbs for the next few weeks. I suppose I should feel grateful that as long as Fifa calls the shots the ungodly will continue getting the short end of the stick, but somehow, I don’t …

Author

  • Gavin Foster

    Durban photojournalist Gavin Foster writes mainly for magazines. His articles and photographs have appeared in hundreds of South African, American and British publications, and he's also instigated and researched stories for Carte Blanche. Winner of the Magazine Publishers Association of South Africa PICA Profile Writer of the Year Award in 2008. South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Motorcycle Journalist of the Year (Magazines) 2015/16/17. South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Motorcycle Journalist of the Year (Overall) 2015/16. South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Motorsport Journalist of the Year (Magazines) 2017 - Runner-Up 2015/16.