Cops just want to have fun

2011-02-01 11:12

It could well have been a gathering of high school learners relishing a day away from the monotony of lessons in dreary classrooms.

Thousands of police officers from across SA converged on Soweto’s Orlando Stadium on ­Friday to celebrate Police Day.

Police Minister Nathi ­Mthethwa’s speech was almost drowned out by loud chatter from the audience, and the deputy minister could not be heard at all.

Some tried to sneak into the venue with bottles of beer, cider and cold drink laced with spirits. Others simply ignored the proceedings and chose to quench their thirst in nearby shebeens.

And when it was all over, instead of queuing for food in the disciplined manner expected of police officers, they pushed and jostled for food packages like hungry souls in a refugee camp.

As early as 11am, while proceedings were under way at the magnificent venue, scores of officers were already milling about in the streets outside.

Some of them were buying food from hawkers who had already run out of supplies, while others sat drinking in shebeens and other shady corners.

An annoyed police officer was heard reprimanding a hawker for not bringing enough supplies. “You should start cooking again right now!” said the angry man.

The elderly woman responded: “But we heard that you people were bringing your own food...”

Some hawkers were frantically making calls to place orders for more meat and mealie-meal.

Uniformed police officers manning the turnstiles and searching their colleagues had a field day confiscating booze or turning away officers who arrived with cooler boxes packed for a serious binge-drinking marathon.

Instead of returning their drinks to their buses for consumption ­later, some simply stepped aside from the busy turnstiles and did justice to their drinks right there – ignoring the fact that they were committing a serious offence called public drinking.

City Press came across a highly inebriated officer leaning against a lamppost in the street and inquiring from passersby whether they knew where he could find his colleagues from Seiisa Ramabodu in Bloemfontein.

Inside the venue, Mthethwa struggled to deliver his keynote address, prompting the programme director to constantly hiss through the PA system for silence.

“Please show the discipline that we know and cooperate with us here,” he asked the cops who chattered loudly and took no notice.

Mthethwa’s well-crafted speech dealt with the challenges and successes of the SA Police Service in the previous year, and a commitment to double efforts in the fight against crime – but he may as well have limited his address to the ­dignitaries on the podium, who ­included the national police commissioner, General Bheki Cele.

Deputy Minister of Police Makhotso Magdeline Sotyu would have done better not to take to the podium after Mthethwa’s speech.

Even before she began to speak, her pleas for calm were drowned out by the crowd. “I do understand that you are tired, you are hungry and you have been here all day, but I’m not going to take long,” Sotyu said to the crowd.

But it was as if she had not even spoken. In the end, it was not the many achievements and grand plans ­announced by Mthethwa that got the loudest cheer, but musician DJ Sbu, who took to the stage at the end of the formalities.

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