There is a ritual on the night shift at the paper.
The night reporter has to do crime calls. What it means is phoning police spokespeople across the city of Johannesburg and asking them if anything is happening in their area. A stupid question to ask in Johannesburg, you might think.
Isn’t this the murder capital of the world? Hijackings galore, kids zoomed up on cocktails of drugs and heading for your living room. Shouldn’t the police laugh when you ask that question? “Sonny, you want to know what is happening in my area,” Mr police spokesman, might answer. “Well, is four murders enough for you? How about three rapes? Oh and we have one serial killer on the prowl. And, guess what Sonny, that is just what we have, inside the police station.”
But it is not like that.
A strange thing happens when I call these men and women in blue. “Agg it is all quiet,” is the stock response. It is all the same as you move down the list of cop names and contact numbers.
You phone Hillbrow police station where down the road residents throw fridges, and sometimes their neighbours, out of high rises.
“Nothing has been reported as yet.”
Alexandra police station, that looks after Alexandra township, better known as the Dark City a haven for criminals and where there are so many illegal firearms per capita, that statistically the toddlers are packing.
“It has been quiet for a long time now.”
Sometimes you reach a spokesperson and they appear to be sitting in a night club. “You will have to speak up. Oh it is all quiet.”
Sometimes you can only imagine what they are up too. I always pictured one officer practising his ballroom dancing with his wife, when he answers the crime check call. “Halloooo,” he’d say moving his large self to the rhythm of the Cha cha beat and nimbly negotiating the space between the sofa and the dining room table. “There is nothing that I know of,” the officer says.
In my mind”s eye I see his wife’s crimplene dress flair as he gives her a quick twirl.
“Aag Joburg is quiet tonight, it has been like that the whole week.”