Hey, police academy, how about a module in common human decency?

2014-02-02 06:00

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South Africa’s first police academy was launched in Paarl on Thursday afternoon.

It was a scorcher of a day in the Winelands, with the mercury hovering well over 30°C.

SA Police Service (SAPS) top brass including Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and national commissioner General Riah Phiyega were in attendance, perspiring lightly on a small plywood stage flanked by festive red draperies and sunflowers inside the academy building, which is situated on the town’s leafy Main Road.

So far, 125 students have enrolled for Bachelor of Policing degrees at the police university – a SAPS and Unisa joint venture – designed to up the country’s somewhat tarnished policing game.

It could be described as an academic finishing school for cops: stomach in, chest out, with added decorum, perhaps.

There were awkward moments at the launch, for example, when Mthethwa voiced concern over the fact that only 23 of the 125 enrolled students are female.

The students are cherry-picked and many women simply didn’t make the cut, journalists were told. “We will try to improve on this,” Mthethwa said.

According to a press release, the academy is aimed at the “reskilling and professionalisation of the SAPS”.

Also, it will endeavour to instill in learners’ “values enshrined in our Constitution”.

For further queries, the press release invites journalists to call media spokesperson Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale on his mobile number, which is duly listed.

I had some related questions, and on Saturday morning, called Makgale. We exchanged greetings and here follows a transcript of the rest of our conversation:

Me: Lieutenant General, could you please tell me why SAPS chose Paarl as the location for the new academy?

Makgale: [Silence] Do you have an alternative?

Me: An alternative? Excuse me?

Makgale: Do you have an alternative location for us?

Me: What I would please like to know is, of all the locations around the country, why did SAPS choose Paarl as the location for this academy?

Makgale: Why are you asking?

Me: [Silence] Because I’m a journalist and this seems an obvious question...

Makgale: It’s there because they wanted to have it there.

More questions were, well, out of the question. The conversation ended soon after.

Ironically, said SAPS “media spokesman” wasn’t speaking to me, he was barking at me.

Being treated in this manner on the job is mind-blowing, I can assure you.

So, dear reader: while Paarl has many claims to fame that range from rolling vineyards to granite boulders upon which juts the Afrikaans Language Monument, it remains utterly unclear why exactly it was picked as the setting for the much-feted new SAPS academy.

Paarl may be South Africa’s third eldest European settlement and home to ex-Springbok coach PDiv.

Here, too, Madiba took his first steps as a free man when he left Victor Verster Prison in February 1990.

Be that as it may, the reasoning behind the location of the brand-new SAPS Academy will remain a mystery (for now).

Because, you know, and I quote: “It’s there because they wanted to have it there.”

One can only hope that the new academy’s Bachelor of Policing curriculum includes lessons in communication.

And while we’re at it, how about modules on Unjustified Arrogance and Common Human Decency?

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