Wonkie debated for some time whether to title this article In defence of Pigspotter or the Purpose of Government. Wonkie opted for the latter in the end as the PigSpotter saga is one of many manifestations of a poor definition around a key role of government in any country: to serve for the good of the people. Also, Wonkie doesn’t believe PigSpotter should be defended on all counts.
For those of you in South Africa and abroad that have not heard the name PigSpotter before, here is some brief background. PigSpotter is the owner of a twitter account (yes, that microblogging social network thing again… the one that Julius Malema threatened to shut down because of the impersonating profiles doing naughty things all over the internet using his good name). PigSpotter is quite a popular twitterer and has close to 32,000 followers. PIG, by happy coincidence stands for Police in Gauteng in case you thought it was simply a derogatory term for police officer as it is in the USA and other countries. Now Pigspotter has undertaken to provide the useful public service of updating followers with traffic updates. These include accident information, traffic disruptions, and … speed trap locations. No doubt there would not have been too much concern around the former two but speed trap locations – that received a fair chunk of attention from the authorities.
The authorities are fuming because PigSpotter is apparently obstructing or defeating the ends of justice. And therein lies the argument that Wonkie would like to propose. The deeper purpose of government through the laws they enact with respect to this issue is to protect the public from harm. The intention of the laws – which manifest as speed limits – serve as a rule to help prevent accidents and reckless endangerment. What was not the intention behind the law, one would hope, is that the speed limits be used as a source of generating revenue.
In that light, what sense does it make for traffic police to be sitting at the bottom of a hill which hasn’t had an accident in years, hiding behind some bushes with a speed camera? If the fundamental goal is to protect the public from harm, they should place cameras in high accident zones and take over the job of PigSpotter themselves. The state itself should be broadcasting the location of the speed traps to increase awareness of drivers to ensure that they slow down. And if drivers are still stupid enough to speed in that area they deserve to pay for it – and significantly more dearly than they currently do.
“It’s not all pigs that are rotten, only the sneaky ones that hide in the bushes eating fried chicken and waiting to catch you ‘in the act’… then bully you into ‘donating towards their next cold drink'” .. says Pigspotter’s self-proclaimed wingman, Al.
The decision as to how to implement and uphold the intention behind laws lies necessarily with government. The PigSpotter issue regarding the speedtraps in Gauteng for Wonkie is one of form over substance. The argument being that Pigspotter is actually promoting safety by alerting drivers to drive slowly. If the police simply sit in accident prone areas, people will benefit – even if the state coffers don’t.
The issue of PigSpotter informing the public of roadblocks however is a different matter altogether. Certainly it is an inconvenience to the public – Wonkie accepts that. But the purpose of government is also to enforce the law when people break it. If they cannot enforce the rules through penalties, there is really no point in having the rules in the first place. Further, the element of surprise is necessary to catch offenders – and we’re not just talking about speeding fines here. There are plenty of other more serious criminals that can be and likely are picked up by these police interventions. To that end, PigSpotter is doing a disservice to the public, especially given the high rate of crime in South Africa.
This is just one aspect in which the purpose of government and the laws that are in force are acted upon without adequate regard for the intention behind them. Another big example of where this has gone even more horribly wrong is the BBBEE act a.k.a. affirmative action, but that is a subject for another day.
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