Cops put car before horse

Themba Molefe

Themba Molefe

"Horse held for car theft," neighed a headline in yesterday's Sowetan.

Many readers might have lamented that Sowetan had sunk to a level of sensationalism lower than that of a known tabloid. But the article was as genuine and factual as could be.

Police did take the horse into custody, confirmed Captain Lindiwe Mbatha of the Soweto SAPS.

"We apprehended a horse and two suspects for being in possession of a suspected stolen vehicle," she said.

"Police pulled over a cart carrying a stripped-down body of a new car, a Corolla Conquest, which they suspected had been stolen."

The horse's "crime" was that it was drawing the cart with the two suspects on board - a getaway horse, so to speak.

The two alleged thieves were held in cells for 48 hours before appearing in court today.

And the police were obliged, by law, to detain their equine accomplice.

The big question is, did the police arrest the animal? Mbatha says no. The police could not leave it in the street so they took it to Moroka police station. From there the mare was transferred into the custody of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Booysens.

She said the horse could be summoned to court as "an exhibit".

The crux is whether the horse was arrested or not. Mbatha stressed it was merely "escorted" to the police station.

But the dictionary defines "custody" as "being held by the police; arrested".

So Captain Mbatha cannot deny that the poor steed was arrested.

Now the media debate is whether our crime-weary society might see criminals reined in, or will the nightmare continue.