A star that keeps on shining

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In some communities, it’s still regarded as a job only designed and fit for men. But, for Lieutenant Colonel Thandi Mbambo, being a police officer is the only job she’s ever enjoyed.

At times, she had to report to commanders who told her they preferred working with men, but that only motivated her to work harder. And for someone who started out as a constable 14 years ago, Mbambo has done well for herself.

As More Matshediso finds out, she is another reason why women are still called imbokodo (rock).

Although she never imagined herself wearing the blue uniform, Mbambo ended up filling an application form when SAPS opened for recruitment in the year 2000.

She was only trying her luck as she struggled to find a job after completing her B. Admin Honours degree in Industrial Psychology, which she obtained in 1998, from the University of the North, now University of the Free State.

She worked for various retail stores in Bethlehem and Bloemfontein while searching for a better job.

And then she landed her job as a police officer, one of the only five female recruits in the Free State team, and the only black female, amongst hundreds of men.

Even though being in the SAPS was not part of her dream, Mbambo says it has turned out to be the best thing to have ever happened for her.

“I joined the SAPS by chance. My husband learnt that SAPS was recruiting, so he brought me application forms with a plan that I become a policewoman until something better comes up,” she says.

Mbambo was uncertain she would handle the job because she grew up with the notion that police were “rough and rude”.

“I’m quite the opposite of that...  even my neighbour, who was a policeman, told me bluntly that I would not survive the job with my character. But I did and I love every moment.”

Being the only black female recruit sometimes worked to her advantage. She found herself being treated with special care by most male colleagues. But often, she felt she had to work harder.

“I had to prove I was worth it… that I was the best for the job.’’

Her duties include communicating with the media on a daily basis, marketing the provincial SAPS, handling public complaints, advising management on issues published in the media.  She also educates the public on crime prevention using mass media and conducting awareness campaigns.

Mbambo hails from Bohlokong, Bethlehem, in the Free State, and was raised by a single mother.

She was one of only two children and they never knew her father.

“My mother worked as an Assistant Nurse at Phekolong hospital. She was a hard worker. She did everything for us, and was very protective, she still is.”

She still dreams of raising the bar in her career.

“I always believe that the sky is the limit and the SAPS has grown into a diverse organisation that has opened doors for the growth of its female employees, wherever the opportunity for growth and development presents itself I will take it.”

Her job is challenging, and it’s her faith that keeps her going stronger every day.

“Putting God first helped me overcome a lot of challenges in my life, and also at work. What I have achieved so far is only through God’s mercy, hard work and dedication,” she says.

Her family understands that she will not always be home to cook dinner or bath the kids.

“My husband is a very supportive man… I have a strong support system at home, which helps me survive my hectic job. When I get home I take off the manager’s hat and become a mother and a wife.”

Mbambo strives to positively affect as many lives as possible while she is still alive.

For Women’s Month celebrations, she is participating in various crime prevention activities in her province.

But she says attention to women’s month is slowly dropping.

“I think the focus has shifted, and somehow women on the ground are left out, they don’t become part of the celebrations.”

Her advice to women is that they should be determined and hardworking to achieve their own success.

“They should refrain from focusing on things that come easy, as they say, easy come… easy go. Most importantly they should invite God in their plans.” An advise to heed indeed from someone who worked her way up from being a constable to becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in just 14 years.  -SAnews.gov.za


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