On justice and honesty

23 01 2014

Trevor is my insurance broker. He’s a big man, loves to talk and laugh but occasionally has a serious story to tell. Yesterday when paying my annual insurance premium he entertained me with a couple of stories.

“You like justice to be done?” he started and without waiting for my reply launched into his tale.

A client of his has a 17 year old daughter who was attacked by 3 dogs recently  whilst out walking one afternoon. They rushed out of a gate left open and attacked making quite a mess of the girl’s leg before she managed to beat them off. A report was made to the police and the order given for the dogs to be destroyed (there was a history of other attacks) which was done.

The case was far from over and the lawyer for the owner of the dogs suggested a meeting between the girl’s father and the member-in-charge of the police station handling the case. This was arranged and at the meeting the lawyer proposed some sort of financial compensation instead of taking the case to court. Much to his surprise the member-in-charge said he would prefer it to go to court to which the father agreed after a moment’s thought.

A year’s jail term was handed out, suspended on condition that the accused never owned dogs again and some community service was added on top. The police station where the case was reported made use of the community service.

“So what do you think”, asked Trevor. “There’s still some hope left” he added referring to the continual corrupt dealings of the police that have left more than a few of us disillusioned.

“Trevor, the cynic in me is awakened” I replied without pause. “If the owner of the dogs had been someone of note, with the right connections, do you really think it would have got this far?”. He had to admit that it was very unlikely that it would have.

“Then how about this” Trevor continued, clearly unfazed. “I’ve just got back from seeing my folks in Cape Town. My mom and dad are in their 80s in a retirement complex in Fishhoek and my mom spends her days knitting and watching bad South African TV. My dad is more than a bit conservative and has no time for TV so I decided to wait until they went away for a short while, get the TV installed with a subscription for a year and make it fait accompli”.

The manager of the complex was contacted, an installer recommended and met. Trevor had misgivings about the character who was recommended but in the excitement of doing something worthwhile for his mother and circumventing his domineering father, chose to ignore the alarm bells. He handed over the cash together with enough for the year’s subscription and the equivalent of $100 to sweeten the deal. The satellite TV was duly installed but the year’s subscription ran out after a month. Fortunately Trevor’s older brother was going to Cape Town so he went and put the fear of God into the installer and another 6 months subscription was suddenly paid. Excuses were made about the remaining 6. So Trevor asked if I knew of anyone going to Cape Town who could help out. I didn’t but recommended my cousin who is  huge and does go there to see his daughter.

“So I was telling this story to my golf buddies the other day” ended Trevor “and they couldn’t believe how dishonest the installer had been. But then they are Zimbabwean. The one South African who was playing with us couldn’t believe how naive I’d  been to hand over cash to someone I didn’t know with just a handshake to seal the deal”.

Indeed, how bad are things getting when one cannot trust complete strangers!