Challenges persist, but police officers continue to pursue their goals

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Challenges faced by police officers daily are many. Besides being perpetually at risk; other challenges such as bribery, intimidation and retribution are also ever-present. But, many still manage to give honour and dignity to the uniforms they wear. Edwin Tshivhidzo and Professor Ndawonde spoke to a few such officers.

On National Police Day celebrated on Tuesday, South Africa, together with the South African Police Services (SAPS) will honour devoted police officers, who give dignity to the blue uniform and those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

One such officer that puts her life on the line daily to protect that of others is Senior Superintendent Yoliswa Siyothula from the Eastern Cape SAPS Provincial Commercial Branch.

Superintendent Siyothula started her career at the SAPS in 1981 has since received several accolades for her achievements.

She told BuaNews she had arrested dozens of criminals and had opposed many bail applications as well as solved complex cases.

One of the cases she solved was a rape case, which involved a victim who was raped, strangled and thrown into a river and discovered a month later.

"That was my first case and I made the arrests and the suspects were successfully convicted for rape and murder.

"That's when I found my job very rewarding. I am also confident of doing it better than some of my male counterparts. " Superintendent Siyothula said.

For her good work, in 1985, she was promoted to a commercial branch to investigate fraud, a task which she described as complex and interesting.

"At first I struggled and later received training and now I'm an expert in investigating fraud," she said.

She said one of the cases she was involved in included arresting prosecutors who were colluding with an accountant at a bank.

"The suspects would duplicate cheques and inflate amounts. For instance, the syndicates would inflate R50 cheques to R500 000," she said.

In 2001, Ms Siyothula was promoted to her current position of Senior Superintendent.

For her achievements, she was named best cop nationally in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Another such officer who risks her life daily is Superintendent Leonie Vester, Head of the Umtata Organised Crime Unit in the Eastern Cape, who described her work as a "do-or-die" task.

The mother of three affirmed that being a police officer meant sacrificing your own life and those of your family.

She told BuaNews, police officers had no choice but to give off their best to make the lives of criminals miserable.

"I love my job despite the fact that I hardly spend time with my family. I have no choice. As long as innocent community members are protected and offenders are arrested, I'm happy.

"I appreciate and respect my work and I am a public servant and therefore I must be accountable," she said.

Supt Vester said she tried to make time for her family but her work was very demanding and she always strived to give off her best.

"I'm trying to make time for them but if I get a call from work; then I have no choice but to go out there and execute my duties."

The 39-year-old officer said being a woman in this field was not a problem for her and she believed that female officers had the ability to do better than their male counterparts.

Supt Vester was recently applauded by the Eastern Cape SAPS after leading a team that successfully arrested and charged the province's most wanted criminal who was allegedly involved in 38 counts of armed robbery.

A challenge faced by officers daily, is the temptation to accept bribes.

A mother of four, Captain Nomvula Mbense of Orlando West Police Station in Soweto said bribery and corruption was a major challenge in the job.

"There's nothing more frustrating than dedicating yourself and arresting a suspect only to find out the next day he was released because he had illegal connections at the station; this kills our morale," said Captain Mbense, who has 20 years of experience in her field.

This however does not deter her like-minded colleagues from continuing to do what they did best: arresting criminals and protecting the innocent.

National Police Day celebrated annually on 27 January honours heroines like Superintendents Siyothula, Superintendent Vester and Captain Mbense.

Ever since Cabinet approved the day in 2005, the SAPS, together with diverse communities and other stakeholders, have celebrated the day.

This year, South Africans are urged to join the South African Police Services in promoting partnerships with communities in fighting crime.

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