Police officers who risk their lives to protect and serve in Khayelitsha and surrounding areas were honoured on Thursday May 5, during an awards ceremony at the Mew Way Hall.
About 50 officers, each with a decade or more of service under their belts, received medals and certificates for their bravery and commitment.
Provincial deputy police commissioner Major-General Mzwan-dile Mzamane encouraged the officers to abide by the SAPS code of conduct both on and off duty, as it required them to uphold the constitution and the law while being guided by the needs of the community.
“Wear these medals with pride, dignity and respect. You deserve them,” he said, warning them to always be vigilant. “Remember that some of your colleagues did not live to see this day. Some of your colleagues died wearing their police uniforms, and for you to have made it this far, you truly deserve this recognition. Police work is a thankless job, but because you have the passion to keep our society safe, you opted to join the force.”
Officers who maintained order during the 2010 World Cup were also recognised.
Major-General Mzamane said police officers were considered “enemy number one” by some, and he appealed to the public to protect them and realise they were human beings. He described recent police killings as “senseless acts “and condemned them in the strongest terms.
Khayelitsha Cluster Commander Major-General Brigadier Johan Brand said officers needed to be encouraged and their hard work acknowledged. Police, especially in Khayelitsha, were plagued by negative news, so it was important to highlight good work.
“A medal is a metal disc typically of the size of a large coin and bearing an inscription or design, made to commemorate an event or awarded as a distinction to someone such as a soldier or athlete.
“These medals are not just metal discs, but they acknowledge the tribulations and trying times you had encountered in the line of duty and off duty.
“The lives of the police are constantly in danger and people need to be educated about the important role played by police in our communities,” he said.
Khayelitsha Community Police Forum chairwoman Fransina Lukas thanked the officers for risking their lives to keep others safe.
”While we strive to succeed and obtain promotions in our jobs, in your jobs, you strive to escape death, even if you are off duty. While we sleep at night, you are roaming our streets and homes to ensure that we sleep peacefully. When we feel that our lives are endangered, you are the first people we call. For that you are highly appreciated,” she said. She also paid tribute to officers killed in the line of duty.
Harare station commander Colonel Tshotleho Rabolibi described the occasion as the proudest moment in his life. He felt the community needed to do more to protect officers. He urged residents to work with the police to root out crime.
“I have been in the police service for 23 years now, but I have received a certificate for 20 years. I hope to move to the senior ranks of the police,” he said.
Colonel Rabolibi said being a police officer was tough work – just wearing the uniform was a challenge because it made you a target. But he would never trade his job for anything else, and he encouraged young people to join the police.
South African Police Union (SAPU) shop steward Thobile Ngantweni used the platform to criticise the government for not appointing more black officers into senior ranks. He said many black officers who were eligible to occupy senior posts were overlooked. He also believed officer’s salaries should be reviewed and greater appreciation shown for the risks they took.
“When an officer shoots a person acting in self defence, it becomes the talk of the town, but when a police officer is killed, nothing is done. Police officers are the first in the line of defence,” he said.