Lieutenant general Sharon Jephta. FILE
Lieutenant general Sharon Jephta. FILE

Retired top police woman continues to inspire

By Genevieve Serra Time of article published Jul 31, 2021

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Cape Town - Policing and mentoring is in her blood and even after her retirement, former Western Cape deputy police commissioner continues to educate other women.

With close to 40 years of policing under her belt, Lieutenant-General Sharon Jephta, formerly of Cape Town, now resides in Gauteng with her husband, Lieutenant-Colonel Mogamat Jephta who is also set to retire at the end of the month.

Despite retiring in 2019, Jeptha continues to inspire hope and educate women and men while having a sterling, clean and impressive record.

She was the first female divisional commissioner of the Division Inspectorate in the SAPS.

Jephta saw the evolution of women in the police force, breaking the barriers of how men perceived women in uniform.

Together with her husband, they are set to release a book, titled Arrows In Our Quiver, where they tell of their lives of being in the police and being parents, with a total of 73 years of policing.

Jephta is also writing her own book, titled Cop Ice, which will focus on her career which she hopes to release in March, 2022, marking the role of women in the police force for 50 years.

She hopes to consult with other retired police officers to help develop and implement mentorship programs for police women.

The old South African Police Force is often remembered for its history that was characterised by militaristic, patriarchal and separatist policies. Therefore it was no surprise that in the organisation’s long history the first intake of coloured women was only in 1981. Among the group was 19 year old Constable Sharon Geldenhuys (now Sharon Jephta).On Friday 01 April 2011, she takes up her position as Deputy Provincial Commissioner responsible for policing in the Western Cape. She was promoted recently from Brigadier to Major General. FILE

Jephta tells of how she climbed the ranks and the battles she faced in her career.

“I was promoted in the province to deputy provincial commissioner crime prevention to the rank of major general in 2011.

“I have learned to use every stumbling block as a stepping block to climb the ladder.

“Further to this, I have learned that in the workplace you have to choose your battles wisely and never pick a fight with your commander without knowing your rights, but to lift the lid when challenges arise.

“You must be willing to explore new environments and not to stay in one stream in the workplace if you want to become multi-skilled.

“To be multi-skilled and to serve with integrity, commitment and excellence has earned me the position of divisional commissioner inspectorate in 2015 at the rank of lieutenant-general. I became the very first female divisional commissioner of the division inspectorate in the South African Police Service making history to the top,” she said.

Lieutenant General Sharon Jephta. Picture: SUPPLIED

Talking about Arrows In Our Quiver she said: “My husband and I are writing a book. It is about raising our children as cops.

“My husband is also in the police and will retire within 3 days at the age of 60, after 35 years service.”

She has now begun tennis coaching and started a vegetable garden for her community.

“I am consulting with other retired police women to develop and implement a mentorship program for serving police women.

“I was responsible for policy development in visible policing and was intensely involved with the development of victim support and domestic violence policies in SAPS, so I will be using that knowledge and experience for this.

“I have started with tennis coaching this year and will be joining the tennis league and start playing tennis tournaments in due time.

“My husband is currently the number one SAPS tennis champion for his age group in SAPS and also plays national level tournaments. We intend travelling with these tours.”

She has two children who are both in the arts industry.

Jephta said she experienced a lot of challenged as a woman in a male-dominated environment.

“The fact that I was always the only woman in the boardroom has been very challenging in a cowboy's world.

“As you know how it goes in boardrooms, you are sometimes not taken seriously or supported with an idea. The fact that there were no women who I could look up to as a mentor in the police as I was always the senior woman around.

“I had to remove many barriers as many of SAPS policies were not female-friendly – long hours at roadblocks and no toilets and specifically when I was menstruating. SAPS later made toilets part of logistics for the field.

“When I asked for a full-length mirror it was not part of the specifications. I had to motivate and convince my male colleagues that I cannot see when the seams of my uniform were out or when I had a rip in my stockings. They eventually changed the specifications.

“When I became a senior manager the specification for office furniture was either dark brown and black leather and wood. I indicated that I need couches with colour, I wanted orange and green and cushions and also a round table for my board room not the square ones that was on specification.

“I was seen as a threat by my senior male colleagues, but I had all the support and respect from junior male colleagues.

“This, however, improved after I became part of senior managers as my male colleagues were aware of my knowledge and experience in policing.”

Last week, friends and family took to social media applauding Jephta for her commendable service in the force.

Brandon Arendse said: “This is one of the best female heroes and she set the true example for other young females in saps.

“She still continues to inspire others to follow in her steps. Thanks for the years you gave to the saps organisation, may your legacy live on in other females following your footsteps.”

Weekend Argus

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