Gauteng police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini speaking during an interview in Parktown, Dlamini will be going on retirement later this year after been with the SA Police Service (SAPS) for 40 years. Picture: Itumeleng English / ANA Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
The news of the impending retirement of Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini was received with mixed feelings in some newsrooms.

Over his two decades of communicating on behalf of the provincial police services Dlamini earned himself as many followers as detractors among journalists.

Dlamini, 59, admitted that rapid changes in the media were among the reasons for his grey hairs.

“The older (generation) of journalists were street-smart and went all out to get the whole story. That has changed. Now journalists want to use me as a source of information instead of going out to get their story.

“Technology has also had an impact. Most journalists use social media to get stories and come to us without doing proper investigations,” Dlamini said.

The soft-spoken police veteran is known for being strict and for hating to repeat himself. Yet, once you get to know him, you can’t help but warm to the fatherly figure responsible for explaining crime incidents in the province that is also called Gangsters’ Paradise.

While concerned that crime levels remain high, Dlamini said law enforcement - aided by technological advances - had made strides in reducing dangerous crimes like robberies.

In October, Dlamini will swap his police uniform of 40 years and the bustle and hustle of the city for a farmer’s overalls and fresh, countryside air at his plot in Walkerville, south of Joburg.

The father of five is most looking forward to switching off his cellphone and spending uninterrupted quality time with his family.

Despite negative opinions of him among members of the media who crossed his path, Dlamini believes he did his job to the best of his ability and urged the men and women in blue who wish to pursue careers as communicators to always be on their toes.

“People must work hard because the communication environment changes rapidly. There are lots of technological changes and the methods of communication that we have been using are now outdated,” said Dlamini during a rare, personal interview.

Born at Spandikron Farm in Wasbank, near Dundee in Kwazulu-Natal, Dlamini arrived in Meadowlands, Soweto, in 1978 as a 20-year-old who had just completed matric and in search of job opportunities.

A year later, his career in law enforcement began at the notorious John Vorster Square, now known as Johannesburg Central Police Station. As a rookie police constable, Dlamini patrolled the streets of Johannesburg on foot.

“My first duty back in 1980 was to guard a dead body that had been left in a state of decomposition on an open veld near Fordsburg. I had to help the mortuary personnel load the body on the trolley and we had to touch it with our bare hands because there were no gloves. The smell was so bad I couldn’t stop washing my hands long after that incident,” said Dlamini.

At the height of the country’s tumultuous political violence, Dlamini developed a keen interest in media, cutting newspaper articles and filing them.

He said that police officers were behind many illegal activities and recalls an early career highlight of busting corrupt cops who had been enlisted to quell violence after only three months of police training.

“At that time I was young and energetic and took my tasks very seriously. I used to receive threats when investigating corrupt police officers, but that did not stop me from doing my work because I had the support of my commanders,” reminisced Dlamini.

“I would make the arrests and follow up on the cases until the offenders were sentenced. I had a case against a police officer thrown out of court without my knowledge. I was not happy and wrote to the chief magistrate to complain about the court proceedings. I was called and interviewed by the High Court and steps were taken against the case’s prosecutor and he was eventually found guilty in 1995,” recalled Dlamini.

In 1994, he earned a diploma in policing and was appointed to a detective position at Mondeor Police Station and also furthered his studied in public relations management at the then Technikon SA.

When the police service was restructured in 1998, Dlamini was moved to the communications department.

The Sunday Independent