August 1 last year started off well. The police officers of Rosebank station had a women’s month celebration.
But, by the late afternoon, the station was in chaos.
A former admin clerk shot his station commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Thandi Mkhize, 14 times, before killing Captain Neelavathi Naidu and then himself.
Yesterday, the small, mouldy office where Naidu was eating her lunch the day she died was crowded with people lighting candles and singing hymns commemorating the anniversary of her death.
But a year later, Mkhize is still on sick leave and did not attend the ceremony as it is believed it would have been too emotional.
“She is well but I cannot say she’s perfect. She still has to undergo some operations,” said police spokesman Sergeant Bongi Molatshe. “Today I would say she wanted some quiet time with herself to digest what happened last year.”
Community policing forum member Philip Pybus said
: “There was one [unstable person]. Are there any more? This worries me like fury.”
The station commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Zoleka Kuboni, said she was a “prayer warrior” who was constantly praying for, and looking out for, her staff.
“If I see a person is not okay I will call the person into my office and talk to them,” said Kuboni.
She would talk to the staff about any issues they were having before referring them to a counsellor.
Nasley de Bruin, who became a close friend of Naidu’s when they worked at the Hillbrow station together, encouraged the other officers to remember why they joined the service.
“It’s because of her [Naidu] that I am the way I am in the SAPS,” said De Bruin. “That’s the kind of person she is.” De Bruin paused: “I don’t say she was.”
De Bruin said Naidu’s two children were living with family in KwaZulu-Natal but that Mkhize had taken a motherly role with them, and may have even decided to visit them at this time.
The station chaplain, Captain Christopher Joseph, said the public had little understanding of the life of a police officer.
“Don’t forget about us. Don’t just read our obituaries, because we are human beings. If you cut me open there is not a stone inside. I’ve got a heart that bleeds,” said Joseph.