Thugs rule, contends author

South Africans are ruled by criminals, says Jonny Steinberg in his latest offering, Thin Blue: The unwritten rules of policing South Africa.

South Africans are ruled by criminals, says Jonny Steinberg in his latest offering, Thin Blue: The unwritten rules of policing South Africa.

I can't stop thinking what would happen if criminals got hold of this book.

Will it motivate them to continue making our lives hell because they know they "are in charge"?

Steinberg does not realy connect with his reader.

For eight years, he spent almost every weekend in the back of a police van patrolling the overpopulated streets of Alexandra and the suburbs with only one mission: to uncover the relationship between ordinary South Africans and the government they have elected.

It's clear throughout the book that criminals are in charge. In the first chapter, in two juxtaposed incidents on the same Saturday night and involving the same police officers, constables K and N, he relates how helpless Constable K feels when unruly thugs threatened to kill his children.

It is also here that seven thugs dictate to officers how and how not to carry out their duties. The officers were trying to get one of the youngsters to return his father's bakkie, which he had stolen.

Abuse and death threats against Constable K's children follow.

"If they tried to arrest anybody, they would be overpowered and their guns taken from them. They were trapped into standing there and listening to the short one-volley death threats at Constable K's children.

"The only way they could get out of this trap was to increase their own number, to get more of them to the scene."

In the next chapters he highlights how communities desperately try to reclaim their streets because the police have failed to do so. Steinberg says the police seek relief from the streets by attending to problems of domestic violence.

"The only thing police are good at is gaining control of criminals in emergency situations such as the recent xenophobic violence and dealing with domestic violence."

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