Wednesday, 26 October 2016
Of Soldiers & Policemen
You would know by now that soldiers and policemen don’t seem to get along … not in any country that I have visited. For me, boredom is a terrible thing, and sometimes one has to compromise to find some excitement. Therefore, when I heard that Sandton Command assisted in drug raids, I thought I would check it out, gave all the right people for references, and I was in. The next mission was coming up in a couple of weeks. I got the details along with the customary offer to join the lads at the bar once a week. Knowing myself quite well, I stayed away until the night of the ops.
We met at the Commando HQ early in the evening, were issued with kit which, for the first time in my life, contained a bullet-proof vest as well. Slight argument about that, as I felt that ancient thing would hamper my freedom of movement. This was not the thin, reasonably lightweight jacket you see on the movies; it was a bulky, extremely heavy affair, consisting of two thick Bakelite plates sown in, back and front. That, together with a Battle Jacket holding four 30-round magazines, came to half my body weight. The steel helmet has never been and will never be an option for me. The other guys convinced me the jacket was a good plan as it stopped a blade slipping in, in the crowded clubs and brothels we would be raiding. The helmet? No stories of bricks and bottles thrown from high buildings could convince me to put that piece of shit on. As for it stopping a bullet, kak! I have taken one to a civilian shooting range and fired a handgun through the thing; okay, it was a .357, but still.
We were then briefed on what our duties would be. This was interesting. Apparently, when the cops raided a building, the Nigerians in the building opposite would take pot shots at them. As we had no radio contact with either the police or each other, it was understood that when shots were fired we were to locate the target and fire back. I have often heard SADF soldiers complain about the accuracy of the R4 rifle, and how the R1 is more accurate, whadda whadda, whadda. A case of a bad worker blaming his tools? Funnily enough, the R4 rifle was the weapon of choice for some of the snipers in Bosnia. The weight, length and recoil of the R1 are all a pain in the arse. That, of course, is only my opinion, and when one goes into a dangerous situation, one should be comfortable and confident with one’s equipment.
The other duty I had would be to ‘look after’ the female policewomen. I thought this was not only a sexist approach, but also that some of those policewomen sure didn’t look like they needed me to look after them. Shit, I think in a stand up brawl, they would have kicked my butt.
We then went to meet up with the police team at a station well outside our targeted area. There were 300-odd of them, and a lot of trucks, cars and bikes. The most interesting amongst them was a chap that arrived on a Harley. He had a van Dyke beard and long hair, and was dressed like an American biker advert. Under his leather vest was a huge stainless steel .44 magnum. I later learned that his police issue pistol was tucked in the back of his pants. This character was apparently the main undercover drug inspector. There were uniformed cops and plain-clothes cops that still looked like cops, but he looked like a pimp or major dealer, and had the attitude to go with it. After hanging around for a few hours, we finally boarded our respective vehicles and set off for the Brow. This was done with huge fanfare, patrol cars clearing the way, lights flashing. They blocked all intersecting roads so our passage was as swift as possible, the idea being to take the building by surprise and have it cordoned off as quickly as possible, nobody in or out.
The targeted building was a mixed-up affair with bars, clubs and whorehouses on the top and bottom couple of floors, with resident flats in between. As the main force charged the building, we army chaps scanned the opposite building for signs of trouble. If a curtain twitched, it was immediately covered by a couple of R4s. Much to my disappointment, nothing happened. I would have loved to shoot myself a drug dealer … just for fun, you understand.
Once the cops were in, our duty changed, and we accompanied the female officers into the clubs. There was total chaos: noise, shouting and some hitting. The cops seemed to know their business and drugs of all types were being flushed out. One of the army Bedfords became a prisoner vehicle, while another was used to pack confiscated drugs. Pretty soon both were full, and we had just started. From the club we moved to the whorehouse. Here was another shock. Most of the prostitutes were under 18 years old, blonde and Afrikaans. Since the mission was to find drugs, the cops ignored them and raided the office. More prisoners and many drugs; I then learned about “Black Dollars.”
Apparently, there was this scam where a person bought plain black paper and it was supposed to somehow turn into dollars. Doesn’t sound very clever to me, but the fact is, boxes of black paper cut to the size of banknotes were being taken out along with the containers of drugs. While this was going on inside the building some cops were outside watching both the prisoners and the windows. I had come out to help with window-watching, and, to my amazement, saw hundreds of little black pieces of paper floating down. Then some packets of white powder joined in. One cop did some quick floor- and window-counting, and got on the radio, telling his colleges where it was coming from. They were by now raiding the residential part of the building.
Standing around watching windows was becoming boring and I decided that at the next building I would rather join the “kicking down doors brigade.” Once the building was well and truly raided, and the prisoners and drugs dropped off at Hillbrow police station, we repeated the procedure on the other side of town. Again, highly disappointed that no-one shot at us, I joined up with the Harley man and a policewoman to kick in some doors. This was fun. The guys downstairs would estimate the window and floor and give us the info. We got to kick in the doors. Sometimes they got it wrong and all we would find was some terrified old-age pensioner that was stuck living in this hell-hole, having bought the flat when things were better in this country. Their retirement money was all spent, and their flats had no resale value now that the Nigerians had taken over the buildings. Hillbrow was called the southern capital of Nigeria and the Congo. More often than not, though, we would find some character throwing evidence out the window. He would be warned to cease immediately, lie on the floor, etc. etc.
One memorable scene was when a chap that was ditching packets of cocaine refused to listen. Mr Harley told him to stop it, twice, and when the chap did not listen, Mr Harley casually reached into the back of his pants, pulled out his pistol, and shot the perpetrator through the knee. Pandemonium! Cops bursting in from everywhere, radios blaring: ‘Shots fired, shots fired!’ in various languages, and loads of yelling, some of it from the guy that had just been shot. Some of the cops were yelling at Mr Harley, but he had a real attitude, although I think maybe he violated some civil code or something, considering the drug dealer had no weapons visible. Personally, I think he should have shot the guy through the head; save a fortune of taxpayers’ money on hospital fees and the plane ticket to get him back to his own country, till the next time he gets caught and the whole thing starts again. Apparently, that would be considered a gross infraction of human rights, or some shit. Don’t you love “democracy”?
We did two more buildings, the same modus oparandi, and by the time the sun was coming up, I was beginning to think, ‘I’m getting too old for this shit.’ The flak jacket felt like it weighed a ton; it was biting into my breastbone which has a small bump on it from an old injury, and I needed a drink. As we were wrapping things up some cops thought it would be hilarious to let off a few “big bang” crackers to wake everyone up. They had an arsenal of note pointing at them within milliseconds; some people were not amused. After that I went home and had a few shots of vodka and slept on and off for the rest of the day.
Since I was not part of Sandton Command, it was a hassle to get paid and I only went on those jols when I got really bored.
Extract from The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief II. Full version available on my Mexican Page
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