Retiring Lieutenant Colonel Zimasa Mjali, from Lentegeur police station, says the police and the community must work together to fight crime.
The visible police commander at the station, Lieutenant Colonel Mjali has served Mitchell’s Plain for close to half of his police career life, which started in 1982.
He said during apartheid he only had three career options, being a policeman, teacher or nurse.
“I had always wanted to be a policeman,” he said.
“I felt like I could contribute to the fight against crime.”
Lieutenant Colonel Mjali started as a municipal police officer in Gauteng and two years later he joined the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Umtata.
In 1985 he moved to the Hammanskraal SAPS Training College as a physical training instructor until it closed.
He then worked at Libode police station, in the Eastern Cape, until 2005, when he was transferred to Mitchell’s Plain police station, in Eastridge.
Appointed as captain, he was in charge of crime prevention for about two years.
Lieutenant Colonel Mjali became sector commander for Tafelsig between 2008 and 2011.
“These small areas have lots of gangs, especially in the township,” he said.
“At first the residents would not trust us but I had to work on building relationships. I could not speak Afrikaans but now I can smile broadly and understand what people are saying,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Mjali said he was honest with residents.
“When I was off I would delegate another colleague to address matters and the next day I would be there to follow up,” he said.
He said there was also lots of gang violence when he started but he had to work with the community to curb crime.
Lieutenant Colonel Mjali’s biggest success in his policing career was following up information which led to the discovery of 500 mealie-size bags of dagga in Philippi East and 25 stolen motor vehicles.
In 2011 he moved to Muizenberg police station before being promoted to major at Lentegeur police station in 2014. He had joined the Lentegeur station just months after it had opened its doors in May 2013.
“Lentegeur was a new station with lots of challenges but we have managed to motivate members,” he said.
He said at the time it was among the top 30 crime generated police precincts in the province.
“We had to make members and residents feel they are important and part of the team,” he said.
“Each member in the team is important so the whole team can win.”
Lieutenant Colonel Mjali said he respected SAPS as an organisation as it had contributed to getting him to where he is today.
“It made me the person I am. My children, my family and I have benefited from the direction and discipline instilled by the organisation,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Mjali said he enjoyed getting out in to the community and working to prevent crime.
He said being a police officer is not always a bed of roses.
“We are human beings too. But we need to think about the good things only because bad things are only there to prove you are strong,” he said.
“You must be strong. Life is about challenges, which are measuring our Lieutenant Colonel Mjali said he is motivated by the sacrifices his parents made to ensure he lives a good life.
“Our parents were domestic workers, they made sacrifices and we cannot bring shame to our parents. Let’s respect our community because we are here for our community and let’s not associate ourselves with criminal activities that is denting even innocent police officers,” he said.