From herding cattle to leading Western Cape police
The acting provincial commissioner of police, Major-General Thembisile Patekile, tended to his parents’ livestock and ploughed fields as a boy.
Cape Town - From humble beginnings in the rural Eastern Cape to the Western Cape’s top cop.
Last month, Major-General Thembisile Patekile took over as the acting provincial commissioner of police.
Weekend Argus spoke to him to find out more about the man behind the uniform.
He said he had to juggle between school and looking after his parents’ livestock when he was growing up.
“Growing up, I used to wake up very early to herd cattle and plough the fields before going to school. My parents were very rural so I had no choice but to do these chores.”
Patekile said his upbringing shaped him to be what he is today because he had to work hard at an early age. When his father stopped working in the mines, he had to take over to help take care of the family. Patekile said he was very young when he started working in the mines and had to learn quickly how to be a man.
He said because he was at school, he wasn’t required to work underground for long.
“I could read and write so I soon got a better job and stopped working underground, but still I realised that was not the life I wanted to live. I wanted to go back to school.”
Patekile said he thought he would work for the police in Mthatha but that did not happen and he ended up working in a bar. He grew up wanting to be a lawyer or a pastor, but didn’t have the means to further his studies and had to join the police in 1985.
He said he worked his way up in the police, kept on being deployed to different places in the Eastern Cape but spent most of his career in Queenstown.
The 59-year-old general is a fitness fanatic and when seeing his physique, one can tell he hits the gym regularly.
Patekile said the way he grew up played a role in him being so passionate about fitness. “I used to walk long distances which made me active in sport at school. I did athletics and played rugby.”
He said because of lockdown, he didn’t run or gym anymore, but exercised at home. Patakile said he also used to go to church every weekend when he wasn’t working, but because of the regulations he couldn’t any more. Lockdown has had its positives for him because he spent more time with his family.
“I have four children and four grandchildren and I never used to spend the time I have been spending with them now and I love being their grandfather.”
Patekile said it was always heartbreaking for him when they had to inform families of officers that have been killed. He referenced the shooting of two police officers, Mnakwazo Mdoko and Mninawa Breakfast, who were killed in Kraaifontein earlier this week.
“It can't be that police get killed all the time in our communities. Attacks on police are very high in the province and it is very painful for us when it happens.”
He said police needed to respect the rights of the communities they served, as they can’t fight crime alone, but needed partnerships with other stakeholders including community members.
Patekile said he wanted to develop a management team that will take the province to the top in terms of having less crime.
He said he did not like the top-down approach and wanted everyone to have a say in decisions made for the betterment of the province.
“I love respect, which goes both ways, and I regard people in front of me as being more important than me.”
Patekile said shootings were sometimes caused by drugs, alcohol, gangsterism and extortion causing feuds between certain groups.
“We need to start investing in the young ones because they are the most vulnerable and are easily recruited into gangs, so if we work with them while they are still young we will go a long way in fighting crime.
“We are aware of the causes of these crimes and deaths. We just need communities to work with us in this fight.”