Defend Truth


The other news round-up: The Unlikely Enforcers edition

Marelise van der Merwe and Daily Maverick grew up together, so her past life increasingly resembles a speck in the rearview mirror. She vaguely recalls writing, editing, teaching and researching, before joining the Daily Maverick team as Production Editor. She spent a few years keeping vampire hours in order to bring you each shiny new edition (you're welcome) before venturing into the daylight to write features. She still blinks in the sunlight.

In a weekly column, Daily Maverick explores some of the left-of-centre news from South Africa and the rest of the world. This week: a security squirrel, unethical hairstyles, and a most unexpected essay from Winston Churchill.

Nature abhors a vacuum, it’s said, so perhaps it’s only natural to assume that as the globe stares down multiple epic leadership and bureaucratic fails, alternative authorities would crop up in all sorts of quarters. Crime waves, conservatism, “unethical” coiffeurs – in the absence of Batman, is it any wonder unconventional champions of the law are springing up?

Rule-breaking is nothing new, but this week’s rebels chose unusual routes – with their misdemeanours being managed in novel ways. Bonnie Tyler may perennially need a hero, but I’m pretty sure even she would have drawn the line at being defended by a rodent.

Nonetheless: Winning the “dynamite comes in small packages” award is Idaho squirrel Joey, who protected his human, Adam Pearl, from would-be burglars. Pearl came home to find several signs of a break-in before entering his home, reports Kivi TV, and became alarmed when he noticed scratches around the locking area of his gun safe.

When the police tracked down the intruders several hours later, they found that they had fled with multiple scratches after Joey attacked them in an attempt to guard Pearl’s belongings.

Guard squirrel? Beware of the squirrel? Stranger things have happened, I guess. Actually, they have: I recall taking my own parrot to the vet some time last year and being told by the vet nurse on duty about a pair of scarlet macaws that had – for want of a better word – brutalised a burglar. Scarlet macaws fetch tens of thousands, so it’s unclear whether the burglar was trying to steal the bird, quiet it or just say hi, but let’s just say Polly got more than a cracker. When the homeowners returned, they found a pile of abandoned valuables in the centre of the floor and a single finger at the bottom of the cage. (Solves the fingerprint problem, I guess.)

As performance goes, the furred and feathered are certainly winning the race this week, enforcing rules great and small as humans break them. While this smart otter has been trained to pick up litter after sloppier animals – reportedly in a bid to teach messy people to do the same – Reuters reports that industry is a little less widespread among hominids. Six officials in central China’s Hubei province received punishment for dozing off in a meeting on how to motivate lazy bureaucrats. (Really.) The officials, who are all mid-level, had to write self-criticisms and make public apologies.

But they may be doing a little better, even, than the English officials who found over $60-million dollars’ worth of cocaine, stored in cheerfully coloured holdalls, washed up on two beaches in the east of the country. Reuters reported that investigators from the National Crime Agency were examining their discovery near the resort of Great Yarmouth, having told media it was “extremely unlikely that this was their intended destination”. Bless. Investigators further appealed to the public to help them locate any more. Call me cynical, but I don’t think the lost holdalls are going to be turning up any time soon. The NCA called it “a major blow” to organised crime – but I’ll venture it might be a win for disorganised crime.

Lower-level bureaucracy took a hit in Dorset, where officials have vowed to crack down on time-wasters who burden the national healthcare system. Apparently each UK hospital deals with over 10,000 time-wasters per year, including one nightclubber who went to the A&E to have a broken fingernail glued back on. Another patient simply came to the hospital saying he couldn’t get a good night’s sleep at home. (I’m betting he has at least one toddler.)

But perhaps the strangest marauder of all was this chap, probably beyond the powers of parrot or squirrel, who has been spotted wandering about in Austria sporting a Hitler moustache and calling himself Harald Hitler. It’s a crime to glorify Hitler or the Nazis in Austria, so Herr Hitler II is something of an enigma. Estimated at 25-30 years old, he’s been spotted in bookstores, reading magazines about World War II, and admiring the outside of Adolf Hitler’s house. Authorities have apparently been unable to track him down despite several sightings.

Rule-breakers found their way – albeit unintentionally – onto the sports field too, says Daily Maverick sports writer Antoinette Muller; although in this case, at least, enforcement has not yet fallen to the four-legged. “Over in the United Arab Emirates, more than 40 players have been deemed to have ‘unethical hair’ under United Arab Emirates Football Association (UAEFA) guidelines,” she explains. The BBC reports that some Islamic teachings ban “Qaza” hairstyles, which is where only part of the head is shaved.

Referees have to channel their inner fashionista and decide whether to give players’ hair a pass or not, says Muller, and the news – which isn’t really new – only made headlines because Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan was given a warning for his hairstyle while on loan with Dubai-based Arabian Gulf League side Al Ahli from Shanghai SIPG. Similar laws apply in neighbouring countries, and in 2012 Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah was told to cut his “un-Islamic” hair before a club game.

The rule, apparently, is applied a little haphazardly – players with similar hairstyles have received different treatment. But, says Muller, “considering some of the styles that some players consider fashionable, perhaps this law should apply across the globe”.

Ah, the rules and regulations we make to try to maintain harmony. Is it any wonder poor Winston Churchill, shortly after the outbreak of the War, was contemplating the existence of aliens? In his position, I’d want to head for another planet too.

But we can’t. So we just have to make do with this strange, chaotic world, where heroes crop up in the unlikeliest of places. A luta continua, Joey the squirrel. DM

Additional reporting by Antoinette Muller


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.