Soon we'll all be Pig Spotters

2010-09-20 07:25

South Africa's latest celebrity, PigSpotter, has proved two very important points.

Firstly, that if the authorities don't get on with cracking down on graft and corruption in its own ranks, the public is going to take the law into its own hands.

Government inactivity and failure to keep promises results in vigilante groups being formed by ordinary people to do the job the authorities should be doing.

To say that vigilantism is dangerous is putting it mildly. Mob rule is an extremely nasty thing.

The second important point is the increasing power of the consumer thanks to social media such as Twitter.

This extremely efficient and easy to use form of communication has proven to be incredibly powerful with two great examples in just a week.

PigSpotter managed to create a phenomenal network of motorists who are able to tell the world exactly where speed traps and roadblocks are within minutes. And those idiots on the back of a bakkie in Cape Town who poured water over a street vendor selling the Big Issue magazine, were exposed and nailed in no time flat by ordinary people using cellphones to take photos and videos and then using social media to spread the word to the news media.

Exposing nasty things

This is nothing new. All over the world, the man and the woman in the street has, for years now, been using mobile phones and social media to expose all sorts of nasty things and also to beat the news media to the scene. The bombings in London a few years ago were graphically recorded on social media by people on the scene.

Governments that censor their media are losing the battle because it is virtually impossible to stop cellphone users from telling the world what is going on. Except, of course, by completely banning the internet, which would have a devastating effect on the economy.

Because today, without the internet governments and business simply could not function.

People behind things like PigSpotter don't start these things as money -making businesses. They start them out of sheer frustration at being ripped off by what they see as gangsters masquerading as authorities.

Often they completely over-react. Like PigSpotter who has now, mercifully, agreed to stop exposing the locations of police roadblocks.

Social media is going to grow like topsy the world over. South Africa included.


In fact, conventional news media will now happily admit that by far the majority of their stories come from ordinary people tipping them off.

Most radio and TV news stations the world over now have specific websites to which people can send video material, photographs and leads.

We are, I believe, already in an era of people-power. Companies know that by annoying just one customer, their reputations can potentially be shot to pieces as that one customer starts tweeting about bad service. From then on it’s like a snowball and in no time thousands, tens of thousands and sometimes million of others get to hear about it.

It’s powerful and credible. And, as I have said before, of all the publicity we got from the world cup this year, the most effective was on social media, sent out by the players to their millions of fans.

All of which makes me chuckle at the thought of people in this country genuinely believing that something like a media appeals tribunal or protection of information act will prevent the public from accessing news.

The most powerful form of communication ever devised by mankind lies in social media.

It is first hand, it is straight from the shoulder and it is unstoppable.

Bloody dangerous

And no government, no celebrity, no-one is safe.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, whatever you say, be careful because it only takes one non-descript person with a tiny cellphone to expose you.

It’s also bloody dangerous and by no means perfect.

In the right hands it brings justice, bit in the wrong hands it is like giving a loaded rocket launcher to a toddler and letting him play with the trigger.

 - Follow Chris on Twitter.

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  • Charles - 2010-09-20 07:48

    About one thing you are quite correct. No two: 1. Vigilante groups. 2. They could be lethal.
    I have often thought of starting a vigilante force myself, to rid the public of known criminals who get away with murder! The Schaicks of this world who have high connections would be a good starting point. Then the lawless taxi's who rule the roads. Pull them off, take the keys the first time, then gradually increase the punishment.
    Anyway, this is only a dream, but the fact that we as ordinary people are getting fed up with the current state of affairs is so true. Someday somebody is going to do something about this....

  • Willem - 2010-09-20 08:17

    I was amazed at how fed up the normal citizens were at the corrupt traffic authorities. I thought I was alone. I think the government is walking a very thin tight line and they do not realize how fed up people are with them. I am very glad that at last we realize what can be done about the abuses we suffer and as you say the social media is the answer.

  • J - 2010-09-20 08:20

    @pigspotter may be calling it a day but the police are going to struggle to track down #pigspotter

  • Anthony Olivier - 2010-09-20 08:32

    History shows that attempting to shut social networks down leads them to spawn new leaders. PigSpotter has been as successful as he is because he created a rallying point for the frsutrations experienced by normal motorists every day. If the cops manage to silence him, the phenomena may well continue in a new - and probably harder to stop - form.

    The cops have a tiny window of opportunity to look beyond their annoyance and recognise PigSpotter (and his following) as a reflection of their failings - and both clean up their act, and utilise the social network for the positive benefits they could derive. PigSpotter has every potential for giving the cops a vehicle for honest communication with their core (and angry) constituency. If they choose to do so.

    But I suspect they will prefer to put their efforts into hiding behind billboards, media pronouncements, and the courts.

  • Bemused Reader@Author - 2010-09-20 08:48

    I'm a bit confused here, how does revealing speed traps set up by the authorities to catch perpetrators who exceed various speed regulations a sign that people will take the law into their own hands? The main issue from Pigspotter's actions is whether what he is doing is illegal. Is he defeating the ends of justice by informing motorists who may be over the alcohol limit, or have expired drivers licences,or a dead body in the car boot of a roadblock ahead? In a country such as ours in which people die every day from excessive speed, it is a bit suprising that a person who is making a mockery of the very system put in place to stop people exceeeding the speed limit has become the peoples' champion. The conclusions you have drawn from PigSpotters actions are ridiculous to say the least...

  • Nathi - 2010-09-20 09:35

    I suppose supporters of Pigspotter have never had family members dying in a car accident because someone was driving over the speed or alcohol limit. When this day comes in their life they will realise the folly of their ways....

  • @Bemused Reader - 2010-09-20 09:49

    Dude, people are tired of being trapped where the speed limit is easily exceeded, ie primarily as income (read rip-off) source rather than as a deterrent to drive too fast on DANGEROUS roads. Yes, its illegal to exceed the limit, but nothing is being done to focus on high risk areas. Its all about making money from us, not about protecting us

  • JC - 2010-09-20 10:03

    People like bemusedreader need to actually go onto Twitter to see what Pigspotter was doing. Roadblocks at night for drunk drivers were NOT being revealed. This type of behavior was not being condoned, and must be punished. What was being exposed was Metro Police too lazy to so do real policing, and instead parking their lazy, corrupt rear ends behind bushes with a camera to generate revenue and solicit bribes. This squatting does not make our roads safer, or in any way reduce speeding (go and look at international studies). These parasites need to engage in visible policing and active patrols to catch perpetrators of traffic offenses in the act, instead of gathering in large groups at filling stations to enjoy free coffee.

  • JK@Nathi - 2010-09-20 10:14

    Nathi, although I have empathy for those that have lost loved ones in the manner you describe - how exactly are the traffic officials stopping drunkem drivers and even speedsters when they are cowaring behind a bush. Just this weekend, traveling from Sasolburg to Joburg there were 3 cops hiding so well, you only see them when you have passed - with unmarked vehiclesw no less. They should be visible and ENFORCE the law - not play hide & seek

  • @Charles - 2010-09-20 10:19

    Mail me? I like your views and see things similarly

  • Max - 2010-09-20 10:31

    I want to start a new website:
    People Against Taxi's
    You can upload videos and photos of taxi's behaving badly and ignoring the rules of the road. This should be quite easy, as I see taxi's violating the law everyday. Unfortunately someone has parked the domain. If there is anybody out there that knows the guy who has parked the domain, please leave a message

  • abuseofpowerdotcodotza - 2010-09-20 10:32

    I find it amazing that some people think that pigspotter is "helping" people get away, HE IS NOT! he is simply advising people to slow down - the very reason of a speedtrap, correct? About the road blocks: Yes, i agree dont publish that info all the time, BUT during peak hours they are terrible! I have missed so many meetings because of idiots setting up road blocks in peaks times!! LONG LIVE PIGSPOTTER!

  • Viva - 2010-09-20 10:58

    @Bemused Reader, if the cops were really trying to help and not just make money off us (bribes)I would support them 100%. The majority of South Africans want a lawful country, but it seems as if people who follow the law are punished and people who are a mence on the roads (taxis) are protected. They (taxis) just need to strike
    or threaten not to vote for the govt
    and they get what they want. Who cares about
    the motorist??? Certainly not the JMPD.
    @Nathi, sorry for your loss, but we all know that speed traps/camera are no deterent.We have had this for years and it has not brought the accident stats down AT ALL.
    We need visible policing -why don't we get it??? Cos there is no money to be make from it. It's the honest ugly truth. Viva Pigspotter Viva-you are my hero.

  • Miss Piggy - 2010-09-20 11:04

    Who doesn't already notify their family members that the piggies are hiding in the bushes. Then there are the flashers aswell, if u are wide awake when on the road, you should get to your destination without a hitch.

  • Grethe Koen - 2010-09-20 12:03

    "Governments that censor their media are losing the battle because it is virtually impossible to stop cellphone users from telling the world what is going on. Except, of course, by completely banning the internet, which would have a devastating effect on the economy.

    Because today, without the internet governments and business simply could not function."

    Except that the Chinese government has already blocked certain sites, and they seem to be doing fine. The size of the Internet police in China is rumored at more than 30,000. Critical comments appearing on Internet forums, blogs, and major portals such as Sohu and Sina usually are erased within minutes.

  • Doorboot - 2010-09-20 12:15

    A worthwile book to read is Earth by David Brin, in this books he paints a picture where this phenomenon goes wrong. I kind of think what he tried to warn us about is already upon us.

  • Loudly South African - 2010-09-20 12:30

    How do you mean " the public is going to take the law into its own hands." This has already happened.
    In the leafy suburbs, policing and security is privatised and outsorced to SA's largest growing business sector.
    In the townships, one reads increasingly about suspects being caught by vigilantes, beaten up, killed or their houses burned.

    Corruption and crime starts at the top, with President 783, police commissioner "Friend of a crook" Selebi, police commissioner, sorry General "the liar and tender giver" Cele and Simelane as boss of the prosecuting authority.

  • Tom - 2010-09-20 12:39

    How does camera-trapping make our roads safer? A few weeks AFTER the speeding incident, the fine reaches the owner of the vehicle. In the meantime, that driver could have killed any number of pedestrians, motorcyclists, or other motorists. HOWEVER!!!!! If the speed trap was manned, and the cars pulled over, then a potential tragedy could be averted - the driver could be lectured, admonished, told to be more careful, or even arrested and taken off the roads. Camera trapping is nothing but an income generator. Manned traps where cars are pulled over are a REAL deterrent to dangerous driving practices. Don't believe what Metro tells you - THINK, people, THINK!!! Visible, REAL-TIME policing is what brings the crime rate down - not a fine for doing something, weeks later. All THAT does is make you more inclined to fit false number plates and go wild... How often does Metro check your registration details in a roadblock PROPERLY? Never... All they want is the easy money. Hard work? You MUST be kidding!

  • Walter Pike - 2010-09-20 12:40

    Thanks Chris - great stuff.

    That the world is always on and always connected means that people need to rethink their concepts of media, communication, authority, marketing - almost everything.

    @pigspotter is just a start, there will be many more - and when people ask what can one person do to make a difference the answer essentially here ...

  • Jon@ Max 2010/09/20 10:31:30 AM - 2010-09-20 12:47

    What about the rest of the vehicles that don't obey the rules of the road, while i agree that taxis are a problem so are all the other inconsiderate drivers and there are plenty of them, but i like the idea, try (people against bad drivers......

  • furious honest driver - 2010-09-20 13:38

    Hi guys.. i say we get more pig spotters but corrupt pig spotters. If for instance you get pulled over for overtaking on a white line.. that you didnt..but you cant prove it because u dont have any witnesses. then i say by all means report that traffic officers position to the ends of the earth. I was pulled over for just that reason and the sad thing is i wasnt near a barrier line as they call it. i followed the law. And this is where the problem comes in. they expect you to bribe them when they pull you off and they tell you that u did this or that. and when u dont they ruin your day and give you a R1000 fine. for what.. this is not justice or lawful and we better start doing something about it.. if government does not wanna do anything . the public should.. and that is our rights as public.. so be it if their actions causes honest ppl to take the law into their own hands.. and causes them to not catch the bad guys. the fault still lies with them. not the honest law abiding citizen that is wrongfully accused of doing something their not.. thats my 2 cents.. thank you

  • DaveH - 2010-09-20 13:42

    I dont see the big fuss our traffic police authorities are making over #pigspotter. Anyone who uses GPS navigation in their car or on their cellphone will no doubt use software which ALREADY warns traffic users of fixed-position speed cameras. (eg. see features of Wayfinder Navigator / AmazeGPS / Trimble / Garmin software)
    Adding #pigspotter to the fray is just one more silver bullet which drivers have against the blood-sucking vampires commonly referred to as 'PIGS'!! What earthly reason other than a loss of income can lead to this anger by the department I do not know, because it is every single person's given right to tell another person how and where to avoid being TRAPPED.

  • Atomic99 @bemused Reader - 2010-09-20 14:05

    Skulking behind bushes and hiding in their panel vans taking photos is not policing. It is revenue increase.Being visible to road users will be a much easier and effective deterrent to speeeders and other traffic law abusers. I like the new Gauteng SAPS chief's idea of putting more vehicles on the road and painting the cell phone numbers of the vehicle officer's on the vehicle. The metro traffic police should do the same.

  • Mzu - 2010-09-20 15:19

    Quite honestly I don't need a pigspotter to warn me about any speed trapping...almost all roads around here have speed limits clearly marked. If you obey that pigspotter is useless. South African drivers are just ill-disciplined.

  • Baas'Boerseun - 2010-09-20 18:06

    Pigspotter does better than the cops: At least he gets people to actually slow down.

  • justin - 2010-09-20 18:10

    The first thing the JMPD must do, is to DEMAND that thier staff obey the rules of the road.THEY MUST WEAR THIER SEATBELTS!!!!!

  • Stirer - 2010-09-20 18:19

    The charges against PigSpotter are laughable. The authorities themselves put up notices warning of speed traps ahead. So maybe they are "defeating the ends of justice" themselves. they should thank PigSpotter because it has the same desired effect that their signs are meant to have - and that is to make motorists reduce speed.
    Also, is Pigspotter not preventing a crime? How can you defeat the ends of justice if the crime has not been committed yet? Arguable.
    And the crimen injuria charge? He hasn't identified anyone for that to stick.
    They may as well take the media to court for exposing corruption. Now there's a thought!

  • @Mzu - 2010-09-20 21:44

    You are 100% correct, but I think this whole issue is about a deeper unhappiness and discontent amongst the citizens of our country.

  • Mike - 2010-09-21 06:45

    Mzu has a better idea if you dont like pigspotter drive at the speed limit.Repect red lights. If you dont like Cops respect the speed limit Dont jump lights..screw them let them go and find other sources of revenue from the taxis there is bigger business there trouble is they will have to stand up and walk run etc..I stick to the speed limit.

  • ir8m8 - 2010-09-21 09:34

    Consider if we all obeyed the law of the road, would this man have such a following?
    Consider if the law enforcement (for which we pay) did their jobs as it was intended (not revenue collection), would this man have such a following?.
    Pigspotter did not become infamous because of what he is doing, but because of how we are behaving, i find it shameful that we have transferred our guilt onto an oppertunist.
    Our Society creates its hero's/deamons, they do not come into being because they happen into it.
    Behave responsibly on the roads, then he/wont have anything to report, when they do catch him, i would like to know what kind of driving record he has/had?

  • Frank Klinkert - 2010-09-21 12:32

    Been around for many years. Nature of speed trapping changed when municipalities became allowed to keep the proceeds. Before it went via any poloice station to central state. Those who push for abiding by speed limits show strange determination to ignore exploitation of speeds that are set well below realistic levels.. That is why it is a speed "trap". Go drive in Europe and see how speed does not kill. Concentrate on driving skills and concentration. We no longer have road safety personnel. They have been usurped to collect revenue.
    While reporting location of road block is serious, the reason this starts to happen is because Metro police use these as "credit control devices". It bis now a multi billion industry and as cprrupt as the next.

  • Sharne - 2010-09-21 14:03

    Uhm what is twitter?

  • Wanda - 2010-09-21 15:31

    I don't speed so I don't need Pigspotter or Trapster. However I do think Pigspotter has become a symbol against police corruption. It is the South African public saying loud and clear - no more paying bribes to pay the cops KFC bills.

  • rugs - 2010-09-21 16:07

    all of pig spotters fans should start tweeting and calling themselves corrupt and illegal police watch. or illegal speed trap notifier. etc. they should all do it the cops wouldn't be able to do a thing.

  • david - 2010-09-22 15:52

    Does anyone here not remember wayne minnaar categorically rejecting that metro are there for "road safety"??
    They are "municipal by law enforcement", and highly selectively at that.
    Metro hold roadblocks where hundreds of speeders are caught, but several stolen vehicles managed to escape their roadblocks.
    Metro has got no interest in your well being, and seeing how they have messed up with real crimes, jubjub/mtotata, etc, then why bother pretending they are any good?
    just dirty little pigs, all they are

  • jacques - 2010-09-23 08:24

    Metro cops hiding at a camera speedtrap should be charged with defeating the ends of justice for not pulling speedsters off and making sure they don't kill someone further down the traps contribute zero to road safety unless there is one every 500m.

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