They Were Only Doing Their Duty (Two Ballades With A Prologue)

I. Prologue: Four days of terror

The arrest was just before five o’clock
on a Thursday afternoon,
with one white and one black constable
waiting at his work
and when he returned from business
cuffing him and searching his body
and taking him into custody.

The employer notified his relatives,
seeing the incident
as a blot on the company’s name
and then his job was hanging in balance
and the charges was
based on a false affidavit
made by stepson
on persuasion of the mother in law

and where his car had been stolen,
criminals had broken into his rented house
and robbed him of the TV, DVD-player,
hifi and everything valuable
no arrest was ever made
and the police was only doing their job
and will tell you
that another unit
is responsible for robberies
and hijackings
passing the buck endlessly.

Three days elapsed before a bail hearing
as the black state attorney
was that Friday busy
with another case
in another town
while he was innocently locked up.

It is no joke being innocent and locked up
in a police cell with eighteen other people
with one toilet,
in the middle of the room,
no shower,
no bathing facilities, dirt everywhere
and lice jumping into your hair,

not being able to close your eyes
and knowing if you will be safe
from a attack from any of them

being prohibited to receive any cigarettes
or food from the outside,
being served with three dry pieces of bread
and coffee without sugar for dinner,
an iron bowl as big as you hand
with brown porridge, without a spoon
and any sugar or salt in it
without any eating utensils for breakfast
and having to eat it with your bare hands
like a barbarian

receiving a small bowl of porridge
with mince in it as lunch
and having to eat it
in the same way

and after four days of this treatment
having to appear before a magistrate
on a Monday morning
without clean clothes, a shave
or a comb through his hair
he had been stripped
from being treated humanely
by the South African Police
and have been treated
like just another third world citizen
being made equal to a culture
where living like a animal
is regarded as being humane

and then after his release
he had to get rid of all his hair
to get rid of the lice,
had to take a hot bath in antiseptic
and another shower after that
and had to throw his clothes
and shoes
into the rubbish bin.


II. Honour your father and mother

As a society Afrikaners had respect
for older people,
addressing older people
who were not even related as uncle and aunt.

I have been raised with the bible commandments
and one of them
is to honour your father and mother.

At South African schools
naughty children are not anymore disciplined
by caning, children’s rights, human rights
these days even take precedence
above the teachings of the Bible
and caning is viewed as assault.

I have been raised with the bible commandments
and one of them
is to honour your father and mother.

An eleven-year-old boy
one afternoon while his stepfather
was working at the mortuary,
played with a ten year old girl
from next door
and both stripped naked.

I have been raised with the bible commandments
and one of them
is to honour your father and mother.

That evening the girl told her mother
that the boy had sexually harassed her,
the government welfare was contacted,
the boy was taken to a kid’s clinic for evaluation
where that boy stated that his step father
had sexually assaulted him.

I have been raised with the bible commandments
and one of them
is to honour your father and mother.


III. Only doing their duty

During the trial of the mass murderers
in the Second World War,
some people on trial stated
that they were only doing their duty.

Children’s rights is the in thing,
and on insistence of the boy’s grandmother,
and a declaration of the boy,
the police
went to arrest the stepfather at his work,
which he almost lost
as that company does not want to be associated
with people who sexually harass children.

They were only doing their duty.

The police grabbed him with their hands
going into the back of his pants,
locked him up on a Thursday
at the cells at the police station.

They were only doing their duty.

The stepfather is dyslectic, works as a mortician,
and earns a very small salary,
could not afford a proper lawyer
and it was clear that the state lawyer
wasn’t really up to it.

He was only doing his duty.

The mother of the stepfather,
(an eighty three year old pensioner)
had to get an advocate (a supreme court barrister)
for the bail defence
as her son was seen as a danger to society
and being locked up
in a proper jail was being considered.

They were only doing their duty.

The court decided that the boy should for a time
live with his grandmother
and she went with the story
to the local newspaper
and claimed that she and the boy
have got to live behind burglar bars
in her flat and are too scared
to even go shopping
with the stepfather out on bail

but the grandmother and the boy,
was seen in a local pub,
where she was drinking
and the child was playing pool.

The newspaper and the grandmother
were only doing their duty.

At the court while the boy’s mother
was waiting in the passage way
(as the court case was being held in camera)
a police detective asked her
why she was still living with the stepfather?

The police detective with a pistol on his belt,
was only doing his duty.

During the trial that proceeded for days upon days
under cross examination
from the defending attorney it came out
that the boy’s own father had molested him,
that the stepfather was totally innocent
and the stepfather’s mother (a pensioner)
had to pay more than sixteen thousand rand
in legal fees
and the court felt sorry for the poor boy

and the legal system was only doing its duty.

by Gert Strydom

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