Last Round

What’s to be learned from bribing traffic cops.

Don’t panic, she said, gently putting her hand on my shoulder, “We’re human”. That’s the nicest thing a traffic cop has ever said to me while taking my bribe.

Sometimes they are sterner, which is understandable because they are teaching you something: “No, Madam, you don’t offer bribes like that! Never show the money where other people can see it. Do it again, like this!” There was one traffic cop in Germiston who stopped me so regularly that we negotiated a price for bulk discount. Eventually, I just renewed my licence and fixed my indicator. It worked out cheaper.

I always travel with spietkop money. I keep a R100 tucked under my driver’s licence, in case. It pays to be prepared.

Calm down, please. I can sense some of you are experiencing cognitive dissonance on this matter.

Maybe you think you can’t possibly bribe a cop, but you can. It’s easy if you try. Just believe in yourself, keep an open wallet and soon you’ll be like me; able to pass money for a “cold drink” on the N3, while talking on your cell phone without switching the car off – for the heinous crime of talking on a cell phone.

Breathe. Your biggest obstacle is likely not physical but mental, as are most adventure activities. Once you cross that psychological barrier, you’re home free – or at least home cheaper.

Be assured that my decision to financially deal with traffic cops face-to-face was carefully measured.  It was informed by the wisdom of Hippocrates, the honourable moral code of the Libertarian consent axiom, the strategic inscrutability of Game Theory and the opportunity costs of common sense. Simply put: Nobody gets hurt, the transaction is consensual, and, while it might not be both parties’ idea of a first prize, it is a mutually beneficial arrangement that saves you time and money. Plus, it serves a greater good.

Think of it as privatising a government service. Willing buyer, willing seller. He’s done his job, I’ve learned my lesson, and dues were paid at market price. Let that be the end of it.

Let us not confuse traffic offences like an expired licence or not wearing a seat belt, with a hit-and-run accident or killing someone because you drove drunk. The former are victimless crimes while the latter amounts to manslaughter or murder.

There is no victim involved when I decide to wear my seat belt or not. Nor when I drink too much at home, for instance. It becomes an issue when I infringe on the security of others, physically or financially. That is where governments should step in. There is a prudent element of preventative and pre-emptive action in traffic legislation, which is commendable. However, it does not logically follow that R50 for a broken indicator paid at the Gillooly’s interchange becomes a political butterfly that leads to State Capture.

“Am I causing harm to anyone?” is the important question we should ask ourselves – in and out of traffic.

You should be feeling a lot more comfortable with this now. No? Maybe it will help if you consider it to be wealth redistribution with a purpose. No? Well, there’s only so much I can do.

I am not going to lecture you on technique. I don’t want to cramp your style. Personally, I like the “backhanded backhander” where I hold the R50 behind the driver’s licence in such a way that I can drop either into my sleeve when I find I’ve misread the situation. Sort of like those card tricks magicians do, but with more swearing. Or, to show respect, I pull a move I call the “Hi Dear” in the headlights. That’s when I pretend to be so verskrik that I admit to all my wrongdoings before they can point them out.

You must find your own way. Take it one R20 at a time. Do it with a smile, showing appreciation for a poorly paid job under difficult circumstances in a robust country with problems far more pressing than traffic fines. That’s some nation-building right there.

Most importantly, like the lady cop said: “Don’t panic.”

P.S. Only joking!

And, btw, talking on your cellphone while driving does endanger others on the road. – Ed.

Transparency International on bribery in Africa

The tenth edition of Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa, released on African Anti-Corruption Day by Transparency International in partnership with Afrobarometer, reveals that more than half of all citizens surveyed in 35 African countries think corruption is getting worse in their country.

Forty-seven thousand citizens in 35 countries were asked about their perceptions of corruption and direct experiences of bribery.

The results show that more than one in four people who accessed public services such as health care and education paid a bribe in the previous year. This is equivalent to approximately 130 million people.

The report says the poorest pay bribes twice as often as the richest and young people pay more bribes than those over 55 years old.

“Corruption… is a major barrier to economic growth, good governance and basic freedoms, like freedom of speech or citizens’ right to hold governments to account,” said Patricia Moreira, MD of Transparency International.

“The police is considered the most corrupt institution, with 47% believing that most or all police are corrupt. Many citizens also think government officials and parliamentarians are highly corrupt, at 39% and 36% respectively.”

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