The 5 a.m. whistle signals the start of another day for 1,260 young black men sleeping in Spartan rooms on a fenced-in tract of land north of Pretoria. The barracks' lights are extinguished 17 hours later, after a day of classwork, marching, drills, inspections and study. And the men are a day closer to becoming full-fledged South African policemen.
Black policemen have long been the targets of anti-apartheid activists who consider them sellouts to the apartheid system. Yet the salary, about $4,500 to start, and the benefits package, are enough to lure thousands of applicants. And for each black recruit accepted into the college, another one or two are turned away.
The South African police like to say that their 80,000-member national force, about half of which is black, is fully integrated. But at least one vestige of apartheid still remains--basic training. The police have separate colleges for whites, black Africans, mixed-race "Coloreds" and Indians; the 6-month training regimen is identical.
At Hammanskraal, black recruits take classes in everything from running a charge office to public relations. They are trained to use rifles, pistols and batons. And the rigorous inspections include a close look every morning at the neatness of a recruit's bed and the length of his whiskers.