what to do if a cop bribes you in south africa

In South Africa, it’s common to hear of or go through a roadblock and have to pay a bribe to the police. Oh yes, the same police that is meant to protect this country.

The sad truth is that there are good cops and bad cops, although in SA it’s definitely not a 50/50 split, we never know which ones to trust. “It should go without saying that not all traffic officers are corrupt, however, equally, not all traffic officers are not,” Dembovsky said.

“The truth of the matter is no-one really knows the full extent of corruption amongst traffic officials, mainly because relatively little is being done to actively combat the situation.”

It’s important to have a game plan in case this happens to you as paying the dirty cop will only give them more confidence to do it to the next driver. You can be accused even if you haven’t done anything wrong as there seems to be no line some of the cops won’t cross. All in the effort to solicit bribes from South Africans.

Dembrovsky was asked, “what should a driver do if a traffic cop attempts to bribe them?”.

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Peace officers and bribery

Dembovsy stated in an interview that there is a major difference between “police” and “peace” officers and this is very important to keep in mind.

“It is important to note that while all policemen and women are traffic officers (even those in SAPS), not all traffic officers are policemen or women,” he said.

“All traffic officers are peace officers, not ‘police officers’. There is a distinct difference between the two and the powers they possess in view of their official capacity.”

Dembovsky said that it’s just as serious a crime to offer a peace officer a bribe as it is for a peace officer to solicit a bribe with a civilian. “Neither is a joking matter, and the penalties imposed on conviction can be considerable and involve lengthy jail terms,”.

He went on to say that the last thing that anyone should do is pay a bribe to a cop or to anyone else.

The best way to deal with a bribe:

The best thing to do when faced with a bribe it to refuse to pay the bribe and demand a detailed written notice of the alleged infringement. After this you should follow up with SAPS anti-corruption unit.

“If you are threatened with arrest, or you are arrested because you refuse to pay a bribe, cooperate and remember that you will be able to lay formal criminal charges against the cop concerned,” said Dembovsky

He also said that if you are falsely accused the best thing to do is not to argue it at the moment but simply wait for the trial because you will be allowed to tell your side. “The roadside is not a court and a cop is not a magistrate. Respectfully ask for the written notification and sign for it.” Dembovsky said.

On the written notice will be the officer’s details as well as the trial date and place in the case of the Criminal Procedure Act or your so-called elective options in terms of the AARTO Act.

Drivers may also report corruption instances by calling SAPS national anti-corruption hotline on 082 820 6467. You can also call SAPS emergency call centre on 10111 or RTMC’s hotline on 0861 400 800.

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The one thing that Dembovsky did stress is that the driver should under no circumstance argue or negotiate with the traffic officer as this may just worsen things.

“There is a time and place for everything. The right time and place to deal with false allegations and solicitation of bribes is in Court, or by reporting bribe solicitation to the authorities.”