The Sjambok is a plastic whip with a heavy handle that tapers into a thin flexible edge designed as a cattle prod when walking livestock. It deals with a painful blow and is easy to use. Police used them for crowd control during the apartheid-era and remains hated symbols of repression in South Africa. The current ruling party in South Africa, the ANC still callously endorses the use of this hated symbol – it is used to unashamedly beat black South Africans.
With clear approval by the ANC, a police convoy of about 10 cars races through Hillbrow’s streets. The lead car, a tactical response van with two sliding doors for easy deployment, comes to halt. Officers armed with rubber bullets rush on a settlement of homeless people. Without warning they open fire as people scramble for safety. Three officers take aim at a man who couldn’t leave in time and is now trapped between a makeshift shelter and a wall. They take aim and open fire on one of our scared black brothers. The force of the bullets hit him like a heavy prison sentence at Robben Island, the pain searing through his contorted body.
A black police officer sifts through makeshift shelters of plastic sheeting, cardboard, and wood that start at waist height. He finds a grouping of four black men who took shelter when police opened fire. He cracks the Sjambok dealing blows to their bodies, legs, and ankles as they scramble out to safety. The cruelty of this is symbolic of the bullying, fear-mongering, and corruption of the broken political movement that controls this country, and its unforgivable marginalization of the black majority.
Five members of the police gather around a man with a leg length discrepancy who was unable to outrun the hail of rubber bullets. He uses a walking stick and has shoes to aid his disability. Police feign suspicion and cruelly ask the man to remove his shoe, they think he might be hiding something. People here aren’t taken to a shelter or detained, they are just bullied and abused, just to prove a point, and then the convoy moves on.
Hillbrow’s once-bustling streets are becoming quiet, people are staying home, they witness the government endorsed aggression and violence from their windows and balconies. The police are demonstrating the cruelty that awaits them in the streets if they chance the lockdown to try to find food for their family.
In Yeoville a large group of people queues to buy groceries. Police announce their arrival by firing rubber bullets into the air, this causes panic and tension. A father clutches his son in his arms as police walk through and roughly enforce social distancing, relishing in the fear they are creating in the line of hungry and scared people. The women and children in these crowds hide in fear of being hurt or possibly raped, a significant risk in South African society.
Throughout the day police arrest pedestrians and stop off at the Yeoville and Hillbrow Police stations to process detainees. It’s clear that police are now using horrific methods to tighten their grip on movement with excessive and cruel force. Their enemy appears to be vulnerable and struggling black South Africans, not a virus.
Just like the corrupt and power-hungry ANC government that gives them their orders, they appear brutish in their attempt to spread fear and maintain control. Like a bad case of domestic abuse, they seem to relish the power that comes with the hardship they inflict, summarizing perfectly life as a black South African under the insipid rule of the African National Congress.