We were at the taxi stop earlier than the township’s earliest risers. Ma looked far away into the distance; my thoughts were sombre. As we stood in the cold darkness in silence, I had a feeling of déjà vu – this had happened before. I felt exactly like I did that morning my father slipped into a coma and we had to get the first taxi – part angry, part sad, and really scared. It had been chilly and dark, just like this.

The Claremont Police Station was packed, so we only found seating at the edges of the charge office benches. The service was slow, the long queue served by just one officer. And the young constable was unable to multi-task. Numerous times I saw him stop stamping a copy to make a leisurely comment on conversations with his colleagues. He had the stamp in mid-air for close to a minute while he yapped.

There were a lot of mothers in the queue. Ma quickly exchanged stories with the woman next to her. This lady was immersed in shock because her son stabbed an old family friend dead. She told her story with sad resignation. “Our children,” they both lamented.

Ma turned to me. She asked, “Are you not hungry?”

Her scones appealed to me, but I couldn’t eat once I had seen the gash on a man’s head, further up our bench. The wound was right at top of his skull, not long, but deep and in need of stitches. It seemed to have a pulse, like there was a tiny heart beating under it.

“He crept up on me, hit me with a golf club. I had done nothing! I was just drunk and walking by,” he told people who asked.

“No Ma. I’m not hungry,” I said, looking away from the gash.

In the three hours we were there the Claremont Police Station continued to malfunction. But it was our turn, eventually. I explained our story.

“The detective is not in. He’ll be in tomorrow,” said the young constable.

“After waiting for so long we can’t get help? Don’t you know anything about the case?”

“No. The proper person to talk to is the detective in charge of that case.”

“Are you serious? You mean in this whole place there’s no-one else who can help us?”

“The detective will be in on the night shift. I’ll give you his office number. Call him and set up an appointment.”

“Are you serious? This is a joke!”

The group of police officers beyond the counter, who were slacking at their jobs, turned to witness my tantrum.

“If you paid as much attention to your cases, they’d be solved!” I vented.

“Shut your mouth! Go outside and wait by the gate,” Ma shushed me.

I stormed out of there, irritated. In a glance back I saw that Ma had her hands together, as she pleaded with them. Our constable, plus two female constables from the slacking gang, now listened to her.

While we were waiting for a taxi, one of the young female constables called out to us. She ran up and stopped next to Ma.

“Here is Detective Shange’s cellphone number. Phone him in the afternoon because he only knocked off this morning. And tell your son to stop being so rude.”


Tell us what you think: Why might the police officers be slacking?