Durban - KwaZulu-Natal’s outstanding crime-fighting cops have been recognised for their hard work at the SAPS’ 2014 National Excellence Awards.
Twenty-six policemen and women from the nine provinces, were recognised at a ceremony in Pretoria on Thursday.
Brigadier Derrick Hastibeer, Cluster Commander of KwaDukuza, won the senior manager of the year award.
Members of the Richmond SAPS, Pietermaritzburg K9 Unit, Public Order Police in Pietermaritzburg and the Tactical Response Team, received the National Commissioner’s Award for foiling a cash heist in Richmond.
Hastibeer said he was ecstatic but the award was not an individual accolade but as a result of team work. He won the judges’ praise for cracking down on some high-profile drug syndicates. Hastibeer said they focused mainly on harder drugs such as crack, cocaine, heroin and mandrax.
“These are the core contributors to high crime incidents and tackling syndicates allows us to reduce crimes like robbing, stealing, house robberies and assault by going straight to the source of those crimes,” he said. “We also work closely with the Asset and Forfeiture Unit to attach drug dealers’ belongings, such as vehicles, houses and cash,” Hastibeer said.
Asked about how he felt when he was named the winner, Hastibeer said he “felt chills going through his body”, as he had not expected it.
“I was up against some of the most decorated officers in the country. Although I was ecstatic, I couldn’t show it because my line of work does not really allow me to get carried away with emotions,” he said.
While the awards served to celebrate the hard work of policemen, it also reminded others they may have to serve, sometimes at the cost of their lives.
The Richmond and Pietermaritzburg teams were recognised for foiling a cash heist in Richmond.
Sergeant Ndabe Zondi of Richmond police station, whose brother, Sergeant Thami Zondi, was killed during the foiled heist in January, said the award was a bitter-sweet experience.
“We are happy that our hard work was recognised, but we can’t really celebrate as it came at the cost of my brother. We are also reminded that sometimes bad things happen. But we wish Thami was here to celebrate this occasion with us,” Ndabe said.
Thami was one of four people killed during a shoot-out between police and robbers. G4S Security Company had been delivering cash to an ATM in Shepstone Street when five gunmen held up the security guards and shot one of them.
Constable Sibonelo Mpandla, who was shot in the stomach, said he, too, could not fully enjoy the award. “We lost a colleague and a friend that day. It showed us that some days can be worse than others,” he said.
Provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni commended the officers for their outstanding work that had led to the arrest of three suspects and the death of a fourth during a shoot-out with police.
“They displayed an outstanding dedication to their duty, despite being aware of the imminent danger that the situation posed.
“Despite being in an ambush, the members continued to engage in a shoot-out with the suspects. An opportunity did exist for them to flee and seek refuge in the surrounding dense vegetation but they chose not to in their endeavour to apprehend the suspects,” Ngobeni said.
Other winners from the province:
* Lieutenant-Colonel Thembeka Mbele, the commander of Pinetown Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit, won in the detective employee of the year category.
* Lieutenant-Colonel Jeremy Nel from Plessislaer police station won in the disabled person of the year category.
* Sergeant Thabane Mofokeng of the Port Shepstone K9 Unit won a special National Commissioner’s Award.