South Africans have an abnormal deference to authority. They might not like to think so, but they do it again and again -- and authority exploits it again and again. There are three ways that I see.
• The citizen suspects that something doesn't ring true, so officials resort to personal authority: "This is on my authority. So you know better, huh? You don't think I'm in a position to know? What is this uniform you see?" Not seldom, it is a bluff. In fact worse, considering the kinds of issues under discussion.OBSERVATION: Using one's own horse sense casts much light on such things. So does asking to see the regulations. Or ask Granny. She will tell you what is really going on. What worries me is that the most vulnerable in such situations are the vulnerable.
• Or the person in authority will appeal to another person in authority: "I consulted our legal office. Are you arguing with our legal office?" In my most recent experience, I asked who the legal office was. The reply: "He sits in that office over there. I don't have a name. I don't keep his name. We outsource him." Again, it is not seldom a bluff.
• Or the person in authority will refer to regulations, with a kind of authority-speak. A real example: "After having thoroughly scrutinized and considered all the information relating to this matter, in keeping with our complaints procedures and complying with all stipulations in accordance with the applicable legislation and the code of conduct ..." and so on. Such talk may be nonsense, too. Again the citizen is bluffed into submission.