Watch out smokers, the Drag Squad will put you behind bars in a puff
FACED with a spiralling crime problem which threatens to destroy the very fabric of our society, I see government has finally decided to bite the bullet and implement a policy of zero tolerance by introducing Draconian measures to stamp out one of the greatest scourges of our society.
Yes, dear reader, it will soon be illegal to smoke in public. I hear that a crack new division of the South African police has been set up and that hand-picked officers are undergoing specialist training before being released onto our streets. The Drag Squad, as they will be known, will be in constant two-way radio contact with one another and have been trained to react to a reported crime within seconds. They will be armed with fire extinguishers and fresh-air sprays, and after arresting the foul villain and dousing his cigarette in foam, they will attempt to freshen the area as part of a public service so that decent law-abiding folk can enjoy it.
It is already anticipated that hardened criminals could attempt to avoid arrest by cupping their hands over a lighted cigarette in an attempt to hide the burning end from the police. In smoking parlance this is known as the FW de Klerk position. They will soon realise that they are up against a superior adversary. The training the Drag Squad receives naturally includes detection skills. They have been instructed to look for shifty-looking people loitering around street corners with smoke coming out of their nostrils and to listen for telltale coughing fits.
Once the suspect is sighted, he will be kept under surveillance until he eventually gives in to temptation and takes a long drag. Only then will they move in. Police tracker dogs are also being brought into the crackdown, known as "Operation Stub-out", and are being trained to smell a smouldering Cohiba at 100m.
Backing up the uniformed officers of the Drag Squad is a small group of plain-clothes detectives, all of them former 40-a-day men. Their job will be to conduct on-the-spot breath tests to see whether a member of the public might have just had a crafty smoke. They will then check the video records from hidden surveillance cameras for evidence which could lead to an arrest and prosecution.
Lieutenant Phil Terre-Tippe of the Drag Squad also told me it could be illegal to solicit or to use language "likely to cause a combustible tobacco substance to be incinerated". Previously innocuous phrases such as "Have you got a light, mate?" should now convey to law-abiding citizens the message that a crime is about to be committed and that a police officer should be called immediately. Worried human rights lawyers have suggested that, in their enthusiasm, the police might be tempted to lay traps for unsuspecting smokers such as leaving packets of open cigarettes on bars.
The fine for public smoking is R200 at the moment, with a prison sentence for those who are either unwilling or unable to pay, although public floggings and the severing of fingers have been suggested for repeat offenders.
Clearly the SA government, as always, has its priorities absolutely right. It is staying soft on hard crime because it knows it hasn't a hope of winning the battle. Even if the police do manage to arrest criminals and they actually go to prison before escaping from police cells, you can be sure the President will let them out again as a birthday present to the nation.
So the ANC have done the only logical thing. They have criminalised a formerly legal activity knowing they will be able to face the SA public ahead of the election and say with some degree of honesty that they are winning the fight against crime. Quite why the government is wasting taxpayers' money by introducing legislation to stop people from enjoying a legal substance like tobacco in public, instead of concentrating police resources on getting illegal substances like cocaine off the streets. remains a mystery.
Maybe they just have too much time on their hands.
Continuing with the theme of political correctness run amok, I was amazed to see that Gauteng education MEC Mary Metcalfe has apologised to the parents of those four little darlings for the humiliation they experienced after their thieving offspring were asked to apologise for pinching food and money from the school tuckshop. In my opinion, a theft of R48 000 is a serious crime, not a childish prank. To allow the culprits to remain at school and not prosecute them is a clear indication that the ANC supports the crime initiative.