Citizens give police bribery a backhand
Growing number lift lid on crooked cops, spurious traffic stops
● Fed up with crooked traffic cops, South Africans are taking back the streets, one corrupt officer at a time.
One of the latest is Pretoria resident Sudeshan Reddy, who reported two Tshwane metro police officers for allegedly trying to solicit a bribe and intimidate him.
And two Gauteng traffic cops were bust in undercover sting operations for trying to solicit bribes from motorists over the Easter weekend.
Reddy told the Sunday Times this week: “I decided to speak up because too many people I know have been victims of this form of harassment and abuse by rogue elements in the police force.”
On March 14, Reddy and his partner were stopped in Rietondale, north of central Pretoria, and threatened with a fine for not indicating. Reddy told the officer this was “pure fabrication” and irregular.
“He became arrogant and asked me what was in my bag. I told him it was my business cards and that I work closely with government and the police.”
Reddy said the policeman grew hostile when questioned about his lack of a name badge, and summoned his supervisor, who was also badgeless and aggressive.
Eventually, the couple were allowed to continue their journey “because he clearly was not going to extract a bribe on a spurious charge”.
Reddy posted a complaint on the metro police Facebook page and lodged a formal complaint, and an advocate from the complaints unit replied to say he had been informed of the matter.
“There are many police people who are doing a good job and it is very important that we have a visible police force, one that does hold roadblocks and monitor drunk driving. But when it is abused we are down a slippery slope,” said Reddy.
Tshwane metro police spokesperson Sen Supt Isaac
Mahamba did not respond to several requests for comment.
In Johannesburg, a UN em- ployee was allegedly harassed and taken in by two Johannesburg metro police officers last Sunday, resulting in the intervention of diplomatic police.
The man, who did not want to be named, was travelling from Pretoria to Johannesburg to visit family when he was pulled over at the William Nicol off-ramp. He was asked to step out of his car while officers searched it, and they found a knife among hiking and fishing gear belonging to a friend.
He was informed he would be arrested because the knife was a lethal weapon. “At that point I reached out to the UN division of security services about what I should do. The point of security at the UN spoke to the officers and told them they are not allowed to do this because I am staff of the UN and there are certain rules around this.
“They did not listen and put me at the back of the police car.” The man was taken to Douglasdale police station and released with an apology two hours later after diplomatic police intervened.
“Throughout, before the diplomatic police arrived, they were trying to intimidate me and [apparently] to solicit a bribe,” said the UN staffer. “It was very stressful but I stayed calm throughout because I knew I had done nothing wrong and I was not going to pay a bribe for any reason.”
Johannesburg metro police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said the internal affairs unit is investigating the allegation.
“If there is evidence of misconduct, the officer has to appear before a disciplinary hearing. Corrupt officers get dismissed, depending on the type of misconduct,” he said.
NGO Corruption Watch said most reports of allegedly corrupt traffic cops stem from SA’s most populous province, Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
Corruption Watch’s Kavisha Pillay said most traffic bribery reports are “somewhat difficult to investigate due to the nature of the report — including the whistleblower not having the officer’s name and details … These reports, however, do help us to identify hot spots and patterns of corruption.”
Pillay said Corruption Watch is seeing more effort on the part of the public to expose this type of corruption. “The majority of complaints — 61% — relating to traffic bribery were received in the last five years.”
In February, Corruption Watch launched the Veza Tool, an open data platform where the public can report police misconduct.
“In one month, we received over 70 complaints of police misconduct and corruption, of which 30% had to do with bribery,” said Pillay.