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Sep '09

Day 51: Monday, 21 September 2009

Posted by steve@buddyandme.co.za

Categories: Buddy and Me

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So the weekend has come and gone. I must say it was a pretty good one apart from the fact that the 20 – 30 dogs held at the Police Dog Unit across the road from the entrance to the Game Reserve where I was camping were really a pain in the proverbial XXX (gat). One would start barking and then all of them would join in and this occurred at regular half hour intervals all through the night and day. But then again I suppose you can’t really blame them because the members of the police force there were firing off some kind of grenades every now and again and this continued until 1am this morning. They were having a party there and the noise could be heard from my camp site. The guys camping a short way away from me were on the verge of going over and giving the cops a piece of their mind, but one guy persuaded them not to believing that they could end up in more trouble than the cops.

The cold, cloudy weather which arrived in Polokwane on Saturday morning continued this morning and stayed with me to Mokopane (Potgietersrus as some of the road signs show it) but by 1:30 this afternoon it cleared and warmed up considerably. I had a really laid back leisurely drive and Buddy purred along like a pussy cat; he actually prefers being compared to a Lion, so I won’t tell him my description otherwise he’ll start giving me problems again. Since starting the project, and in fact it occurred many times while I was on the other project/campaign as well, I cannot believe how many ill-mannered drivers we have on our South African roads and these are not restricted or limited to any particular region, race or sex, they exist from areas right across the country, men and woman who when you pull over to the extreme left side of the road, sometimes when there is only a very narrow strip of yellow curb and you increase the risk of picking up a puncture or worse, they drive past without so much as a raised hand or flash of indicator lights to thank you. So to all those inconsiderate ill-mannered drivers, learn some manners and at least thank those who move over to allow you passed, it’s the least you can do, so if the shoe fits, wear it.

On arriving at the Lubners store, the store manager Tinus v/d Westhuizen contacted a captain in the CFS (Child Protection Unit) who immediately agreed to meet with me. So I jumped into Buddy and headed for the Police Station where I met a lady Captain of note. Captain Mapuluhela proved to be yet another dedicated police officer who has definitely earned my respect. We had an hour long discussion on the child rape situation in the Mokopane district as well as the rest of the country and she confirmed that child rape in the area is very bad but she is confident that they are on the right track. She believes that the best thing that the Provincial Commissioner did when the rest of the country dismantled the Child Protection Unit, which I might add she believes was a very good unit and should have been left alone to continue with the brilliant work it was doing, was to maintain the unit as it was and so when the new FCS unit was announced and all the problems were experienced with establishing the new infrastructure this region was already established. The unit in Mokopane which is a cluster control centre for seven satellite stations in the region has 10 members who investigate cases in an extremely large geographical area. I raised the point which has been raised by every policeman linked to the FCS to date and that is the situation with regard to the number of vehicles the various units have available to investigate large numbers of cases in extremely large areas. She confirmed that they have 4 vehicles available but also confirmed that she has been promised more, it’s just a question of when the vehicles will arrive. I just hope it won’t be when the existing vehicles have completed their usable life period and so they will still be stuck with only four vehicles.

According to the good Captain, the police are blamed by the community every time a suspect is released on bail and this creates nasty situations with the community invariably taking the law into their own hands resulting in yet more crimes which have to be investigated by the police. She believes that the courts should not be granting bail to suspects involved in child rape cases, particularly because invariably it results in the child or the parent being intimidated which makes it very difficult to obtain a conviction. Then she raised the point that is closest to my heart, the child offenders in child rape cases. She believes that “Child offenders must be held responsible for their actions and that State facilities must be provided where, no matter what the child’s age is, they can be held there during the investigation and can be sentenced to imprisonment there on conviction”. This is music to my ears! She told me of an incident in which she had arrested a 14 year-old boy for the rape of an 8 year-old girl. He was not detained in any cell and was in fact taken straight to the court for the court’s decision on the matter. When the case was called the magistrate actually shouted at her asking “Who is the inconsiderate police officer who arrested this young boy” she was reprimanded in such a way that she was absolutely embarrassed, and the boy was subsequently released into his parents’ care. Now this is what really annoys me, it was as a result of bad parenting that the little shxxt raped and destroyed a little girl’s life and then the court sends him straight back to the same incompetent parent. She also raised the point that because children are not being held responsible for the crimes they are committing, syndicates are using them to commit other crimes such as house breaking and robberies. When arrested and convicted the child receives no more than a smack on the hand, actually not even that, and is released and when his peers and buddies see that he got away with it they follow suit and do the same thing. According to the Captain, if the Government and ‘powers that be’ do not wake up and change the situation fast this country is going to slump into a very bad place. Hell, I thought we were there already but according to her it’s going to get much worse, so come on guys in Government, you are always saying that “The people have spoken” when it comes to elections and you are voted into power so listen to them when they speak out about the terrible situation of child rape in our country. Another fantastic suggestion she had is to publicise on a daily basis the names of every individual convicted, identify the crimes they were convicted of and publish the sentence past down by the court, in other words “Name and Shame them”. The only thing I would add of course is to print the names of child rapists in bold. By doing this she believes that individuals will think again before committing crime of any nature, I agree entirely! She also believes that the parole board is creating major problems in that the convicted prisoner should remain in jail to serve the full sentence passed down by the courts, She agrees with Reverend Ramoba who I spoke to on Friday in Polokwane and who believes that our ‘democracy’ is far too lenient on criminals and that a much tougher stance should be taken.

The other topic she raised was the fact that this area does not have any support structure, or rather any to talk about, for rape victims and that the victim has to suffer the humiliation of a crowded police station to report the matter and then be subjected to the harrowing experiencing of going to a government hospital, be forced to sit or stand in a crowded casualty room waiting for an examination to be carried out by a doctor who is over worked and has not an ounce of sympathy for the victim. I can only imagine what I would feel like as a father whose little child has been raped and then exposed to this kind of treatment? After I had explained the functions of GRIP in Nelspruit and the greater Mpumalanga region and the incredible success they have achieved because of it, she looked at me in wonder and said “Now that’s what we need”. So to Captain Mapuluhela, I thank you for the time you gave me to talk to you, I thoroughly enjoyed our talk and for the fantastic opinions and suggestions you shared with me. I certainly hope all your wishes for a ‘just system’ which will stop our children from being raped and which will, I’m sure, reduce crime in general and make your and your fellow police officers’ lives an easier one. So keep up the great work you are doing and I hope you stay as motivated as you are today.

Lubners staff, Mokopane (Potties). Manager Tinus v/d Westhuizen on extreme left and Regional manager Gerrit Pretorius right at the back

Lubners staff, Mokopane (Potties). Manager Tinus v/d Westhuizen on extreme left and Regional manager Gerrit Pretorius right at the back

Following this tremendous interview I spent sometime at the Lubners store running the various points the Captain had made over in my mind and came up with the conclusion “She’s good!” I had a brief chat with the Lubners staff and then went for a haircut, so you will see the new look Steve tomorrow in the photo with the Bears staff in Groblersdal!

At 4:30 Franna van Rensburg of the Kameeldoring (Mokopane/Potgietersrus) Round Table phoned to say he had arrived home and gave Ryno Kruger of the Lubners store directions to his house and I followed Ryno to Franna’s house where I met his wife Nicolene and two and a half year–old daughter Kara. After a magic supper and chat I have now retired to my room, a really lovely place, I’m even sleeping in a hundred year old bed which reminds me of my grandmothers feather bed, only much grander, so I intend sleeping like a log with no 30 odd dogs barking and policemen partying, firing off grenades. So good night, keep well.

Me being pinned with yet another Round Table lapel pin. Oh ja, check out the new haircut!

Me being pinned with yet another Round Table lapel pin. Oh ja, check out the new haircut!

Franna, Nicolene and Kara

Franna, Nicolene and Kara

Caring regards from
Buddy and Me (Steve Heath)

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