Keeping the criminals at bay: Overall winner of the 2018 Tracker/SAPS Awards, Constable Siduduzo Makhaye from SAPS Brighton Beach, left, celebrates with Richard Bay 10111 Command Centre Captain Milton Gumede from the Empangeni Cluster whose team won the unit award, and Warrant Officer Matthew Rose from SAPS Newcastle who took home the lifetime achievement award. Leon Lestrade African News Agency (ANA)
DURBAN - POLICE officer Siduduzo Makhaye was recovering at his uMlazi home from a fractured ankle which he had injured while chasing hijacking suspects in July, when he heard there was a hijacked vehicle possibly being brought into the area.

He picked up his crutches, managed to hobble out of his house and into his own vehicle, after which he proceeded to track down the fleeing hijackers.

As he called for back-up, he came under gunfire from the criminals. But he remained where he was until fellow officers arrived.

The vehicle was recovered - largely because Makahaye, from SAPS Brighton Beach, willingly went beyond the call of duty.

And this was just one of the untold stories of courage and dedication by police, law enforcement agencies and private security companies at the annual Tracker/SAPS Awards event held in Durban on Friday.

Makhaye received the top award which recognises the courage and dedication of the city’s crime fighters, where finalists came from both the SAPS and security companies. 

The Unit Award went to Richards Bay 10111 Command Centre headed by Captain Milton Gumede, and the lifetime achievement award was given to Warrant Officer Matthew Rose from SAPS Newcastle.

Speaking to the Independent on Saturday after the ceremony, Makhaye was clearly delighted to have won the award, but humble when it came to his brave action.

“All the people who were tracking it, couldn’t find the vehicle. I know uMlazi like the back of my hand. I was at home recovering but I had a good idea of where they may be found, so I went out there. I called in back-up to assist, the suspects were firing shots at me,” he said.

Highlighting the hard work and long hours put in by officers, often carried out in the most dangerous areas of the city when many residents are asleep, Cluster Commander for Durban Central, Major-General Mkhize said, “At 2.50 this morning I received a message that a car had been hijacked and the complainant was an Uber driver who had picked up three males in Musgrave. They forced the driver into the boot of a vehicle and dropped him off in Sparks Road. With Tracker’s assistance, the vehicle, a white VW Polo, was recovered in Cato Manor with no shots fired.

“Crime cannot be conquered by police alone. We have to partner with the business sector and our communities to yield positive results. The key to a prosperous South Africa is for the government and the private sector to collaborate with each other.”

Also at the ceremony was eThekwini Deputy Mayor and chairperson of the city’s Safety and Emergency Committee Fawzia Peer, who highlighted that the next intake of 800 metro officers are due to go into the field in February. 

She said this would boost residents’ safety, as would the roll-out of the city-wide hi-tech camera recognition project, which is in the evaluation stage of the procurement process.

Tracker’s Operational Response Services KZN manager Vic Chitanand said that while statistics did show a decline in hijackings around the city, there was a trend of taking the driver of the hijacked vehicle.

“In the last month, we have seen hijackings where the victims are being taken hostage. The driver is being kept in the vehicle and we think this is to delay the reporting of the hijacking. They hold the driver until they get to a safe zone and then drop the driver off.

“Our advice to residents who are hijacked - try to stay calm, take note of your surroundings. Even if your head is down, you can still hear what’s happening.

“We know all the hotspots and we have patrols in those areas. The criminals are now importing signal blocking devices, so when it comes to technology we have to stay a few steps ahead,” said Chitanand.

So far this year, Tracker has made 78 arrests. This follows 1100 vehicles being activated, of which 84% have been recovered.