56. The chief of police.

I was going to carry on writing about owls today, but then something in the news caught my eye. This man is called Mzwandile Petros. In fact he is called Liutenant General Mzwandile Petros. He’s a policeman.

No, he's not Greek.

No, he’s not Greek.

He’s a very important policeman. He is the chief of police of South Africa’s Gauteng province, its richest and most densely populated. It’s where I live. Mr Petros (or is that Lieutenant General Petros?) has just had a most unfortunate experience. He was robbed. Sort of.

Someone broke into his office. Curiously enough, nothing was stolen. It’s all a bit mysterious. He thinks his office has been bugged. It doesn’t really matter though. What matters is Petros’s alleged reaction to the incident. It makes me edgy.

It's the perfect crime! So long as I don't steal anything, no one will suspect a thing!

It’s the perfect crime! So long as I don’t steal anything, no one will suspect a thing!

The good Lieutenant General, you see, has called in a colleague, one  Captain Nomathemba Mgwebile, to investigate the case. It all seems pretty simple so far, doesn’t it.

It’s not simple at all. The good captain is not a detective. She’s an executive secretary. And she has another name. Sometimes she is called “ Vumani Mahosi”. And she was not called in to conduct a traditional police investigation, either. She was called in to “sniff out” the culprits.

Captain Mgwebile is a Sangoma. She’s a traditional healer who is in contact with the ancestors. She’s a shaman, for want of a better word. She was transferred with Lieutenant General Petros when he came up to Gauteng from his previous position in the Western Cape. She has conducted a series of rituals in the violated office, and announced to the investigating team that she had smelled the smell of a “wet dog”. Which was helpful, I’m sure.

We've caught the bastard! Good job, captain!

We’ve caught the bastard! Good job, captain!

You might find the whole idea bizarre and otherworldly.

No. I watch the crime channel. I know how often psychics assist with investigations in the States and elsewhere. I know that the cost of homeopathic medicine was covered by the government  in the UK. This is not some bizarre South African anomaly. We’re just like the rest of the world.

Step aside, Batman. There's a new crimefighter in town!

Step aside, Batman. There’s a new crimefighter in town!

I used to sell books. I know just how choc-full of weird beliefs modern Western thinking can be. Somewhere between healing the world with positive vibrations, David Icke, quantum healing, getting rich through “The Secret”, thinking of Dan Brown as a reporter rather than a fiction writer, transcendental meditation and treating genuine illnesses with distilled water, Western thinking  lost the right to look at just about anything anyone anywhere is doing and say “that’s just silly.”

I’ll go one further. What Petros was (allegedly) up to here does at least have a bit of a pedigree. It forms part of a very old, structured system of belief. Half of the “mind, body, spirit” books I used to sell seemed to be making it up as they went along.

If you wear one yellow sock and give me all your money, the universe will look after you because vibrations.

If you wear one yellow sock and give me all your money, the universe will look after you because vibrations.

I am not offended by any of these ideas in and of themselves. But Petros is the chief of the damn police, not some bearded Southern Californian who made his own shoes out of hemp! He’s doing this on our time. With our money. Does he draw up his schedule with a pendulum? Carry out the war on drugs with an Ouija board and a lucky rabbit’s foot?

There's a riot at the Houses of Parliament, Captain Mgwebile. Quick, grab my bullet-proof poncho!

There’s a riot at the Houses of Parliament, Captain Mgwebile. Quick, grab my bullet-proof poncho!

Anyone should be free to do what they like with their own time and their own soul. If it makes you happy to believe the universe wants you to be rich, go for it. Just don’t get it written into the mandate of the World Bank. If you think meditating about crystals will bring peace to the Middle East, meditate away. Whatever blows your hair back. Just don’t make it the basis for foreign policy.

We need to come up with a recovery policy for Greece. We'll need 2 pounds of hemlock and a black chicken. And somebody get Petros!

We need to come up with a recovery policy for Greece. We’ll need 2 pounds of hemlock and a black chicken. And somebody get Petros!

But I don’t like what Petros was doing.Picture this;

You arrive home to find that one of your most prized possessions has been stolen. You call the police. They send out one of their top guys. You feel a bit better. But then, as you start to tell him what’s happened, he raises a finger to his lips and shushes you. Then he falls to his knees, clasps his hands in front of him, and starts to pray.

“What  the hell are you doing?” You ask.

“I”, he replies, “am asking God who stole your Neil Diamond collection.”

Quiet! The detective doesn't like to be disturbed while he's investigating.

Quiet! The detective doesn’t like to be disturbed while he’s investigating.

It doesn’t work. That’s not what beliefs are for. What if the Sangoma turns around to Petros and gives him a name? What if she points out a culprit, witchfinder style? It sounds crazy, but that’s exactly what he’s asked her for. How do you deny spiritual evidence? How do you escape suspicion when your accuser is a long departed ancestor?

It was him! Proof? Ummm......

It was him! Proof? Ummm……

I hope the police do solve this crime. I don’t like the idea of people breaking into the offices of senior policemen and stealing nothing. It all starts to sound a bit cloak-and-dagger. And when they’re done, I hope they fire Petros. This guy does not belong in a uniform, not because of what he believes, but because of how he applies it.

43 thoughts on “56. The chief of police.

  1. chowanyau says:

    Haven’t laughed that much for a v long time thanx.
    Btw how did you come across my blog,’Neighbours’. Any tips ofn how I can get more peeps to read my blog? Atm only friends on fb and family.
    Been to Cape Town twice, most beautiful city in the world IMO and I have travelled widely. Almost emigrated there but the armed response warnings on houses was a kinda turnoff. Not sure I want to live somewhere armed response is needed in your own home! Already have a problem with insomnia and I am a pacifist anyway.

    Feel rather chuffed you liked my blog, you being a bookseller in your previous existence, must know what you are talking about.

    • 23thorns says:

      Just keep plugging away and the readers will come. And keep reading other peoples blogs.
      As for the security, I visited Zambia a few years ago and each house had its own, on-site security guard.

      • chowanyau says:

        Thanx for the encouragement and advice. You write beautifully, I am envious. I am trying to write as much as possible to develop my own voice, like with Bowie, you know straight away that is him.

  2. narf77 says:

    Steady on Mr 23Thorns about those aging hippies…some of us aspire to aging hippiedom…We have a crazy Californian friend who lives just around the corner from us who hands out C.D.’s about Mr Icke and I could get you a whole collection of them to watch with the children and Mrs 23Thorns on those long cold South African nights when there is nothing but news about (crazy) police chiefs on the telly. I have a little question about Ms Nomathemba Mgwebile…is she good looking? If so, we might have a better understanding why your chief of police feels the need to hole himself up in his office with her hunting for signs of burglary where they isn’t any evidence and why he brought her with him from parts afar. Whatever the reason, he certainly isn’t sticking to convention. Should the accused challenge their arrest…I wouldn’t want to be a lawyer trying to bridge THAT case! You should thank goodness that you were but a humble book seller Mr 23Thorns. There are worse things than being unemployed…

  3. holmesr64 says:

    love it love it love it.

  4. sisteranan says:

    Breaking into the office of a police Lieutenant General without theft bespeaks a challenge of methods, really… one would think that the natural reaction would be a bolstering of security with a public announcement of how proficient those systems now are. If Mr. Petros’ idea of bolstering contains the occult, i would imagine the gun sales in your area have skyrocketed!

  5. John M says:

    Problem here is, if they identify and catch up with the culprit, he/she will morph into a goat or something and get away.

  6. ravinj says:

    How about we trade? You give Petros to Maricopa County, Arizona, and we’ll give you Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

  7. pussonalamp says:

    There’s another case going on in the world of woo, where the woo-merchant – Jim McCormick – has been found guilty of fraud for selling ‘weapon detectors’ (i.e. decorated golf balls) to authorities entrusted to act in the interests of their constituents. Are those authorities being punished for their irresponsibility in spending huge amounts of public money on this nonsense? Nope.

    • 23thorns says:

      I read about him. I’m always impressed by the chutzpah of these people. I wouldn’t even be able to come up with the idea, let alone sell it to some of the world’s most powerful armies.

  8. joanfrankham says:

    whatever blows your hair back…what a great expression,must remeber to use it when I meet some annoying balding guy!!!

  9. Don Bobbitt says:

    Good Read. Well Written. And, I really enjoyed the whole story. Keep up the good work.

  10. kokkieh says:

    You should leave links to the news articles in these posts, else people will start to think South Africans are a bunch of liars. You managed to brighten up a quite gloomy evening with this post. Thanks.

  11. I think the wet dog in the photo best expresses the appropriate response to this police investigation.

  12. billgncs says:

    wow – does that kind of evidence stand up in court ?

    • kokkieh says:

      In South Africa…do you really want to know?

      • billgncs says:

        I think someone else mentioned it, but this is a dangerous stand…. I hope you are flying under the radar.

      • kokkieh says:

        At this stage at least our courts are still protecting freedom of speech, especially when it comes to satire. And we have a proud tradition of writers, poets and journalists speaking out against government.

        Speaking about politics on any public platform is risky, no matter where you are. But I believe one should exercise this right, lest it is taken away.

      • 23thorns says:

        Freedom is still a thing here, so I’ll be fine. In fact we’re probably better off than you at this stage- our guys aren’t organised enough to spy on us.

      • billgncs says:

        I know — freedom in the US is a mere illusion…

        I signed the petition against it. So many don’t care.

        There’s an old biblical story about Jacob and Eassu – and one sells his birthright for a bowl of porridge ….

        kind of like the US and freedom. We sell our privacy for reality TV

    • 23thorns says:

      No. But the whole thing smells of skulduggery anyway- break-ins without any theft and such, and that sort of thing doesn’t play out in court.

  13. Mary Southon says:

    Sure hope the Captain and Lieutenant General don’t read your blog. Your pallet coffee table (with wheels!) will be stolen and they will just laugh.

  14. ioniamartin says:

    That looks like my dog. lol

  15. albertine says:

    PS Is it really safe to wax political in SA?

  16. albertine says:

    Good luck with this one. I guess there are always people who prefer a quick solution to a careful one.

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