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.