Sometimes we are too hard on public officials because of the negative reports every week in the news. What happened at Marikana last year, where members of the police shot and killed about 36 miners, has tainted the SAPS. Since then, it’s as if we’ve been seeing footage of officers behaving badly in almost every news bulletin.
The recent East Rand taxi driver incident was particularly disturbing. Images, taken with a cellphone, showed members of the SAPS dragging the taxi driver behind a police vehicle in full view of the public. The country was shocked. But neither should the men in blue foiling an attempted robbery at Emperors Palace in the East Rand go unnoticed – or unpraised.
Acting on a tip-off, the police managed to arrest no fewer than 15 suspects and confiscate several weapons. They acted bravely and should make us proud to be South Africans. We should not only make a noise about the poor job the SAPS does; we should praise them when they do well. And there are several cases of this that have gone virtually unreported because the media – and the public – prefer to concentrate on the negative.
One example is that of Moeketsi Hlaasa (27), who murdered a 71-year-old Free State farmer and his 72-year-old wife near Trompsburg in 2012. Hlaasa was recently given two life sentences. Clearly, the SAPS did a sterling job here.
We always complain about stock theft and how nothing is being done about this issue. It’s a major problem that can cripple farmers financially – I don’t deny that. But I believe that a little appreciation for the work being done by the SAPS in this regard would go a long way. Certainly, after receiving some statistics from Col Alpheus Mokale, head of the stock theft unit in Limpopo, I think much is being accomplished in that province.
Despite the fact that most of the stock theft units are under-resourced, Mokale says that police are making progress in combating the problem. During the April 2011 to March 2012 financial year, a total of 6 991 cattle were stolen and 3 881 recovered. About 4 690 goats were stolen and 1 711 recovered, and 1 765 sheep were stolen and 460 recovered.
In all, 1 188 suspected thieves, including two police officers, five officials from various government departments and a former mayor, were arrested in connection with stock theft.
Sentences harsher than believed
We always hear that South Africa’s justice system is too lenient on stock thieves, but a maximum of 15 years behind bars and a fine of R50 000 seem pretty steep to me.
Some more stats…
From the beginning of April 2012 to December 2012, a total of 4 549 cattle were stolen and 2 795 were recovered; 874 sheep were stolen and 249 were recovered; 2 290 goats were stolen and 749 were recovered; and 1 597 people were arrested and 640 convicted. The Emperors Palace incident also reminds us that the only way the police will achieve good results is if the public work with them. Criminals live among us. Make a stand and report crime!