Margaret Ranamane a police officer from Jabulani Police station.531 Picture: Matthews Baloyi 2/26/2013

On any given day, Sergeant Margaret Ranamane is certain that she will face angry people accusing her of not being quick enough in processing their firearm licence applications.

Some will even accuse her of drawing a huge salary from taxpayers’ money for idling, doing nothing.

It’s the kind of talk that Ranamane has become used to since she started working at Jabulani police station;s firearm licensing unit seven years ago.

Before that, she worked at the client services centre at the neighbouring Protea Glen police station, after graduating as a police officer in 2003.

“Partly, I think it’s because people take advantage that I am a woman. (It hurts) when people accuse you of earning a lot when you don’t. I just remain calm and explain how the process works,” said Ranamane.

As she went through yet another day of facing rude clients on Wednesday, Ranamane kept one ear tuned to Pravin Gordhan’s Budget speech, hoping that it would bring some much-needed improvement to her income.

“At least I am earning a living with what I get, but I think I can do better with more.

“A double-digit increase, at least. For that to happen, it has to start with the Budget,” said Ranamane, who is in her forties.

Gordhan announced an overall budget of R154 billion for defence, public order and safety for the 2013/14 financial year - a slight improvement compared to last year’s R140bn.

The bulk of the annual policing budget - at least 85 percent - had been allocated towards paying salaries, according to Gareth Newham, the head of the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

“We will only know how much increase we will get later this year, but I am praying and hoping that it will be much better,” said Ranamane.

Last year, the police received an 8 percent increase, if a 1 percent progression increment is included.

Ranamane’s job often takes her to the dreaded Soweto hostels to inspect whether firearm owners adhere to the safety storage regulations whenever they apply for their licences to be renewed.

“When you go there, you have to be cautious,” she said.

She also occasionally goes out on crime prevention operations such as stop-and-searches, roadblocks and raids.

For all her troubles, she takes home about R8 000 after tax and pension fund deductions.

This, she said, was far too little for somebody “doing a dangerous” job. “I try hard to balance the budget, but it’s still not enough. The cost of living is too high… The price of food just keeps going higher and higher, while our salaries remain at the same level.”

She said that to get a real pay increase, one had to get a promotion. “But there are fewer chances of promotion in this job.” - The Star

[email protected]