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What to do if you are asked for a bribe

You are hurrying home from the gym, thinking about what to cook for dinner and the work that you have to finish later. You do a quick scan for oncoming cars at a stop street and then turn left. As you turn you see a police officer and your heart sinks. He steps into the road, raises his hand and pulls you over because you didn't come to a complete stop. You apologise and ask the officer if he'll let you off the hook this time. He looks around and then quietly asks you to Buy me lunch'. Problem solved? Not really.

Paying a bribe to a police officer may seem like an easy way out of a fine for a traffic offence. But the reality is that bribery is contributing to the widespread corruption in South Africa. If you are asked for a bribe by a police officer it is your legal and ethical duty to refuse to pay it.

According to Howard Dembovsky, the national chairperson of the Justice Project South Africa, receiving or paying a bribe is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to 30 years or both. He gives the following advice if a police officer requests a bribe:

Refuse to pay the bribe
Simply do not accept paying a bribe as a solution. If you broke the law and were caught, accept the fine and not the bribe as your punishment. Remain respectful at all times.

Do not accept his threats
If you have not broken the law and the police officer is just hassling you for a bribe, ask him to write up a fine. It is unlikely that he will do so as it will create a paper trail that will lead back to him. If the harassment continues, the police officer is committing a crime, and you are entitled to phone the police for help.

Report the police officer
Most police officers who are soliciting bribes will ensure that their badge number and name are not visible. If you can see this identifying information, take it down. It is also worth noting any licence plates or the location of a road block, as these could be used to identify the officer. Don't make threats or challenge the officer, however. Simply take note of any identifying information, move on and report it later.

Drive to minimise your risk
The simplest way to avoid being asked for a bribe is to avoid being stopped by traffic officers in the first place. If you are obeying the rules of the road and your licence disk is up to date, the chances of getting pulled over are reduced.

You can get actively involved in reducing the corruption in our country by refusing to pay bribes, says Dembovsky. If there's no supply, the demand will diminish.

Play your part in reducing corruption by staying on the right side of the law and the road.

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