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Arrest these Okes

by Phumlani Pikoli / 28.02.2011

Cops push a man against a car and make him assume the position. More cops stop other pedestrians of “colour”, forcing them into a spot search that looks more than a little violating.
“I knew it. They’re arresting blacks!” One of my comrades yells. “This is some fucking bullshit!”
A red-faced individual at the table opposite us, clearly taking full advantage of the cocktail special here at Neighborhood, rebuts our disapproval.
“They should arrest all these okes. They all sell drugs man!”
Welcome to Zille city.

We’re taken aback by the chirp. Especially here in the centre of Cape Town’s eclectic Long Street. A quick war of words breaks out. Eventually my comrade suggests that the idiot should kiss his ass. Later Redface’s friends approach us, saying to take the guy with a pinch of salt. They tell us how Long Street really is infested with drug dealers and it’s those “okes” he’s happy to see arrested. It has, they assure us, nothing to do with skin colour. Idiocy loves company and we stare at them, a band of blank brothers, until they leave.

Down on the street, everyone who had been singled out and accosted by the cops had been released, which negates the “infestation of drug dealers” theory. Up on the balcony, these cocktail hour fucks just assumed the cops know what they’re doing and always act honourably, seeing regular folks rounded up immediately as “suspects”.

Net Blankes

Suspects? The common denominator here was that they weren’t white. The only suspect thing going on was the cops’ behaviour. People who haven’t been unjustifiably searched themselves tend to think that we exaggerate how humiliating and degrading it can be. Get pushed up against a wall and have a cop’s hand root around in your crotch for no plausible reason, without any compelling rationale, then see if you still want to talk about these random searches being in the public interest.

Once, in broad daylight, out walking with a housemate (who happened to be a pretty young white girl) two officers stopped and searched my brother and I then, I kid you not, asked her if we were “kidnapping” her. On several occasions I’ve had cops straight up ask me for my I.D book. Have you? Then they want to know why I’m not carrying it. Excuse me? Back to the fucking Dompas. Racially profiled. No other reason fits.

On his first day in Cape Town, another friend ended up sharing the back of a police van with an old man still with fresh groceries in hand. Las year, I was arrested for skateboarding. The police told my angry friends (one of whom is a lawyer) that I was arrested because I “know too much”. They concluded this after I wouldn’t sign an admission of guilt slip without a charge. When I told the policeman if he signed the slip as a third party witness he would be committing fraud, they threatened to lock me up in Pollsmoor and “throw away the key”. None of my white friends seem to have experienced this. Arrested without a charge. Perpetually suspect. This feels like unspoken policy frankly. Policy redolent of the verkrampte past. Uppity black “okes” are apparently still the target.

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