The Police Station And You
One of the most terrifying consequences of crime in South Africa is having to visit a police station to file a complaint. Fortunately, there are places one can go afterwards for trauma counselling.
Victims often say they are afraid to report a crime. This does not mean, as some people think, that they fear the criminals will come after them and punish them for reporting them to the police. What they mean is that they simply do not have the courage, patience, fortitude, time, money or tranquillisers needed to subject themselves to the process. Should you find yourself in a charge office, here are some guidelines that may help you to stay sane.
- If you immigrated to South Africa this morning, you will have been mugged by lunchtime and would probably like a nice cup of tea before reporting it to the police. Take your time. Unpack your bags. Put your feet up. The police operate on skeleton staff during lunch.
- At around 3pm, find a phone book, look under Police and find the station nearest to you. Dial the number. While it is ringing, go to the kitchen and make yourself a snack. If you are really hungry, make a chicken casserole. Once you have eaten, go and take a long bath. Afterwards, watch television or read a book. A constable will answer the phone just as you are getting ready for bed. He will not be able to fully grasp what it is that you are saying. Shouting will not help him to understand. Using verbal sign language, he will tell you to come to the charge office.
- You will need to take a few essential items with you. Along with a packed lunch, take a red pen, a blue pen and a black pen, English-Afrikaans and English-Zulu dictionaries, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the most challenging sudoku you can find, surgical gloves, Valium and a selection of unmarked banknotes.
- It will be easy to spot the police station. Look for the building with the best security in the neighbourhood. They will also have an armed response sign attached to their wall. Just because they are the cops doesn’t mean they don’t get burgled on a regular basis. Park your car where you can keep an eye on it. Activate your anti-theft device, lock all the doors, disconnect your battery and remove your hubcaps. Walk in a brisk fashion towards the charge office while remaining aware of who is around and behind you. Do not stop for anything or anyone.
- Upon entering the charge office, put on the surgical gloves. There are more harmful bacteria in a police station than in a hospital.
- There will be one constable standing behind a dark wooden counter carved with phone numbers, pleas for help, admissions of guilt and graffiti of an anti-social nature. Behind him there will be a female inspector. She will be rooting around inside her ear with a government-issue pen and paging slowly through a black hardcover A4 book. Next to her will be a sergeant (male) twiddling the buttons on a two-way radio. There will be three or four people – two in camouflage, one in plainclothes and one in beach wear – who drift through the charge office like wraiths at a séance. The only person dealing with the growing crowd behind the counter is the constable, who appears to have fallen into a catatonic coma while remaining on her feet.
- Take one Valium. Read War and Peace from cover to cover.
- Take another Valium.
- Complete sudoku.
- By now you should be at the front of the queue. Ask the constable what his home language is. Use the relevant dictionary to ask him which colour pen he prefers to use. Do not let him use his own pen. It will run out halfway through your statement and it will take him three hours to find another one with matching ink.
- Take out R200 and slide it across the counter. Tell the constable there is more where that came from if he lets you write your own statement. Offer whatever it takes. If it works, you should be out of there in 20 minutes.
- If the constable is too retarded to accept the bribe, swallow the rest of the Valium and relax. You will be there until midnight.