There’s a Monty Python sketch revolving around a joke that’s so funny that anyone who reads or hears it promptly dies from laughter. The writer jots the joke down on a piece of paper, only to die laughing. His mother, thinking it’s a suicide note, reads it and she too laughs so much that she dies. Eventually, the joke is weaponised and used against the Germans during World War 2.
I was reminded of this when I saw photos of Panyaza Lesufi’s “crime prevention wardens”. I laughed so much that I fell off my barstool at the Hotel Rio Lindo. I didn’t die, but I easily could have if there hadn’t been a Venezuelan refugee on the floor who cushioned my fall.
Is that Lesufi’s plan? To incapacitate criminals through laughter? Hell, why not? There’s a good chance it could work. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about body types here. Sure, we could solve at least one of this country’s problems if all the hungry people ate all the obese people, but that’s not going to happen for at least another 30 years.
Those uniforms, though? I’m not sure we can even call them uniforms. They’re jumpsuits, man. Pilots and astronauts wear jumpsuits. They’re not designed for a weird quasi-paramilitary outfit that was given two hours of training before being handed the keys to fast cars and unleashed on the criminal underworld.
If the jumpsuits had been orange instead of the colour of the walls in Valkenberg’s lost cause ward, these kitskonstables could have been mistaken for inmates at Guantanamo Bay.
The cut doesn’t do them any favours either. It’s like Gauteng placed a batch order of one-size-fits-all, on special from Guangdong province. Were these wardrobe malfunctions hacked from discarded hospital sheets and old army tents? The larger person always looks better in a figure-hugging catsuit. If it had been up to me, I would’ve gone with Spandex and suede.
Also, I would have had the zips going all the way down and not just to the belly button. Imagine being called out to a cash-in-transit heist and you need to have a quick wee or maybe even a poo because you weren’t trained properly and you’re scared shitless. You’d have to excuse yourself from the scene and take off the entire top half of your uniform behind a tree. It’s insane. That’s how coups start.
Three months ago, Lesufi addressed the new recruits. “I plead with you to make us proud and don’t do things that will humiliate us,” he said. I don’t know what he meant by this. Don’t be too efficient? Or too honest?
When I saw the photos of our 4000 pantsuited heroes marching in and out of step and wearing their berets as if they were gangsta bucket hats, I fell off the barstool all over again. This time I was asked to leave the pub. I tried explaining but this was Costa Rica, a country that hasn’t had an army since 1949. The manager wouldn’t have got it even if I’d been able to make myself understood in Spanish. Truth is, I was struggling with English at that point.
Perhaps I’m being unfair. These newcomers to the law enforcement lark do appear to be a little more approachable. Almost user-friendly, like. The chubbier ones seem like the kind of cop you could ask for directions or a cigarette without fear of being arrested, shot or hit on for a bribe. Of course, this might change depending on whether or not they’re given guns.
The really skinny ones look like meth addicts who cinch their belts too tightly to prevent their liquidised kidneys from falling out of their bottoms. I don’t trust thin cops. Or the other kind.
The people I feel sorry for are the partners waiting at home for their loved ones to return after a hard day’s wardening on the gritty streets of Joburg. After eight hours zipped up in those hideous bodybags, they’re going to smell like roadkill.
Actually, the people I really feel sorry for are the BMW dealers who have to honour the service contracts for that shiny fleet of luxury sedans that set the taxpayer back by almost a million bucks apiece. Six months later they’re towed into the garage, looking like they’d been driven hard and fast by a drunk one-armed Charlize Theron in the sequel to Mad Max: Fury Road.
Look, I really do wish these wardens well. If there’s anything this country needs, it’s fewer criminals, more prosecutions and cheaper beer. But the ANC has made cynics of us all. We’re just too accustomed to things ending badly. And there’s no reason to think this venture will be any different from the many others that have crashed and burned.
Anyway, let’s see how the green mambas do. They might surprise us, even though we’re all way beyond being surprised by anything.