Updated: What to do if you’re asked for a bribe

 A sing-along in the car is rudely interrupted by two traffic officers flagging you down. Where did they come from?! We’re in the middle of nowhere for crying out loud. 

Panic sets in, did I exceed the speed limit while lost in the singing? I stop the car. 

One of them approaches. Doesn’t come straight to the driver’s end of the car. He does a K53 check on the car, including the car’s license, disc. While checking for my driver’s license, I peer up and there he is by the driver window. Sweat starts to drip, must be nerves. 

A casual, “Kunjani sisi? (How are you my sister?)” comes out of his mouth. He proceeds to ask me to turn down the blaring music – oh snap, that must’ve slipped my mind. I reply, “Siyaphila, officer (We are well).” 

He promptly asks for my driver’s license, lifts it and holds it up to the sun as if it would reveal some imperfections or fake information. I look up in mock solemnity to mimic this unusual act. He walks off to the patrol vehicle and seems to speak to a wireless device, referring to my driver’s license. 

He returns, animated and says: “Are you aware that we’re clamping down on fake driver’s license in Mpumalanga?” 

Without much thinking, I reply: “I bet you can trace a fake Gauteng license from Mpumalanga, in the middle of nowhere.” 

Irritated, he lets out a yelp of disgust – alerting his fellow officer. He comes charging over with a book that they will use to draw my ticket. 

The first offence, he says, is that one of the mudguard flaps of the car is absent. The second was that my tow bar wasn’t SABS approved. Is that even a thing? As I was about to protest, he holds us license up again in the sun and says, “It looks fake.”

 I stop dead in my protest and think for a while that I would need my license to carry on in this journey, so I should probably not trigger him. Something was strange about this interaction though. 

It didn’t dawn on me, until he leaned in and spots the water bottles dripping with ice-cold sweat, and about R80 (reserved for toll gates), in the middle console. He half lifts his head out of the car, looks at me and says: “So manje senza njani (what do we do now)?”

I’d been in enough conversations with fellow South Africans to know that question is code for “how are you going to settle this in juncture?”. In other words, a bribe. As tempting as it is in this situation to just pay up and keep it moving, it’s also tempting to whip out a phone camera and threaten the officers with Insta-fame. 

1. Try saying: “Officer (read the name on his badge), I hear you listing all these problems... Please write them all down on a ticket, so I can correct them when I get to the next town.” 

2. After doing that, turn to your travel companion and ask them to please write down the officer’s name and patrol vehicle plate - for future reference. 

3. If you want to help to root out corruption, report this officer to the authorities. SAPS’ anti-corruption unit hotline is 082 820 6467. Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) is 0861 400 800. 

4. If you can record it (discretely), it can help with your case, especially if the threats escalate. 

5. It’s important to remain respectful at all times. Read up on stories of people who have landed themselves on the wrong side of police officers. At the same time, it’s important to not feel pressured into paying a bribe. 

6. Keep your car road worthy with regular maintenance. Also ensure your licenses are all up to date. MotorHappy DRIVE can help you with that. Take a few moments to register for our benefit programme to get access to some amazing discount vouchers, an online vault to safely store your most important vehicle documents and you can even set your reminders. Never again forget your driver license or vehicle license disk renewal dates! 

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