Police force days
Yesteryear. Straight after school all young men had to do two years compulsory military service. I opted to do my time in the South African Police and as a 17-year old I got onto the train to Pretoria for six months of training.
To say that I did not particularly enjoy the training would be an understatement. Endless marching, running around with heavy kit, being shouted at by power-crazy corporals and queuing up for really bad food was not my idea of fun. We had a Saturday afternoon and Sunday pass every second weekend and had to do guard duty the other weekends with a R1 rifle without bullets.
We also attended classes daily – various law subjects and police procedures. I made use of this time to do a second metric with law subjects – this qualification took you three quarters of the way to becoming a sergeant, but you had to be 21 years of age.
We visited the shooting range twice in the six months, once to shoot with an R1 rifle and Uzi machine gun and once to fire a handgun. Needless to say, the firearm training was grossly inadequate and most young policemen couldn’t hit a barn door from the inside.
After about four months it felt life a life sentence in prison that was never going to end. It was a bad time for me – my mother was dying of cancer and was in and out of hospital. How my father coped I have no idea.
I asked for special leave to attend the wedding of my sister and had a 13:00 flight to Durban on the Saturday but had to be back on the Sunday evening. They granted me special leave from 12:00 on the Saturday – not enough time to make my flight, so I tried to sneak out with a delivery truck at 09:00 but was caught and kept there just long enough for me to miss my flight. I made the wedding but missed the church service.
Just prior to our passing out parade, a senseless marching ceremony that we trained for for hours every day, my mother took a turn for the worst and I was granted compassionate leave to go home and missed the passing out ceremony. By the time I got home my mother was in a coma and I never got to speak to her. She died on 26 December after a brave three year fight against cancer.
I initially served at Rossburgh Police Station, had a brief spell being chauffeur to Brigadier Gert Kruger and served out my time in the Drug Squad under Basie Smith, a formidable policeman who became a general.
The last year of my time in the police was interesting. We worked with illegal immigrants, runaway children, international drug smuggling organisations, chemists, doctors and medical reps. Mandrax was the big thing at the time with lots of doctors and chemists involved in the illegal trade of the pill – a schedule 7 drug at the time.
I do remember much of the good times but more of that later.