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Margie Orford

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My Fictional Detective Wants to Quit after the Public Protector Raid. What Now?

You have trouble on your hands when one of the lead characters in the book you are writing tries to resign. This week, in the middle of a deadline from hell, my lovely fictional detective, Captain Riedwaan Faizal, told me he had had enough of the South African Police.

I need him!

He has seen me through four books and has helped my heroine, Clare Hart, out of some pretty tight fictional corners. He has shot his way out of gang-riddled corners. He has punched a rapist hard enough to make him feel a little bit of the pain he inflicted on his victims. He has bust enough gangsters selling drugs to children to make a wing or two of South Africa’s over-crowded prisons overflow. He has turned in a corrupt police officer or two.

But the most recent antics of the South African Police’s top brass got to him, like they got to many of us and by Thursday last week, I had an insurrection on my hands. He would not drive his car, he would not shoot, he would not arrest anybody. He use an untranslatable Afrikaans phrase, gatvol. All he wanted to do was throw in the towel, hand in his resignation and go and start a security company like so many other ex-cops have done over the last few years.

Writing about the police, like working for the police, in South Africa is not straightforward. I had managed to persuade him (and me) to stick it out when our last police chief, Jackie Selebi was given a fifteen-year sentence for corruption. In that long-running case a great deal of court time was devoted to proving that the plump and sharp-suited head of a large criminal empire with tentacles throughout South Africa, had given Selebi with cash and gifts in exchange for lost dockets and information.

One gift in particular caught my attention, a very expensive pair of shoes. Sharp and shiny, a pimp’s shoes, a gangster’s shoes, a bought and paid for policeman’s shoes. It was a revealing and diminishing bribe. Shoes are so intimate, so personal. Buying a man shoes is the equivalent of buying a woman saucy underwear. It is not a purchase that bears scrutiny if the relationship is a clandestine one. But I persuaded my Captain Faizal to stay on in the police force by persuading that his boss had been a weak and venal man and that now he was gone. The rot had been stopped.

A new police chief was duly appointed. Bheki Cele is a tough looking man with a taste for flashy suits and white hats, and a demeanour that suggests that he shoots from the hip. The developments around him have been far more sinister. Cele tweaked government tender and procurement procedures and signed a 500 million rand rental agreement for new police headquarters with an old friend.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    March 9th, 2011 @15:06 #

    Eish. Good luck, Margie. We're in deep waters indeed if even fictional cops are so disillusioned with the ways things are going, they want to quit.


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