Thembi leads fight against the thugs

KwaMashu station commissioner Thembi Ndlovu-Miya is not an easy woman to pin down for an interview.

Her diary is always full, making it almost impossible to secure an appointment with her - especially if it has nothing to do with crime prevention.

Running a police station in a township known for its high crime rate could intimidate one - but not Ndlovu-Miya.

She says she was ready for the position long before her appointment in January this year.

"To me it was just another challenge," Ndlovu-Miya says. "My job here is to make this township a safe place for all and I'm doing my level best to achieve that."

Since her appointment her office has been a hive of activity. At any given time local councillors, members of the community policing forum and ordinary members of the public converge on the station to talk about crime in the area and what can be done to fight it.

"Everyone wants a piece of me," she says. "I get so busy that I don't get time during the day to do office work and end up doing it in the evenings.

"I don't leave the office until all the day's work is done. I am not complaining, though, because I love what I do."

Her bubbly personality and open-door policy has made her a favourite with more than 450 police officers and a community of more than 3million people.

Accolades tacked to the office walls praise her as the best station commissioner in KwaZuluNatal.

"I prioritise cases involving women and children," NdlovuMiya says. "Domestic violence is a big problem in this area.

"On average we issue no fewer than 10 protection orders a day but we are doing our best to bring this number down."

Ndlovu-Miya says she recently started a project where she meets regularly with local women to talk about issues affecting them.

"I also meet councillors and CPFs to talk about crime prevention strategies in the area. Sometimes I become a police station myself because certain people prefer coming to me directly for help."

Looking at a pile of dockets neatly stacked on her desk for her attention, it is difficult to understand how Ndlovu-Miya, married with two teenage daughters, remains calm.

"I love my job and I'm 100 percent committed to it. Besides, my aim is to ensure that the community receives the best service ever at this station.

"That can be achieved only if we as police officers do our job properly.

"I don't mind driving back to the office in the middle of the night just to find out why a phone was not answered.

"I also make sure that investigations are done properly to secure convictions."

Ndlovu-Miya, whose career as an officer spans 17 years, is not new to this position. Before her current position she was station commissioner at Ponte police station in the Durban CBD. She has also headed a police station in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

"I've always wanted to be a police officer," she says. "I never wanted to be anything else. I grew up in a police station because my father was a police officer.

"Another factor that motivated me to join SAPS was when I watched helplessly as the men who had been arrested for the murder of my brother got acquitted because the police bungled the case.

"I went to the police academy because I wanted to see justice done."

With the recent spate of attacks on police officers Ndlovu-Miya says while it had been painful to lose her colleagues, the incidents have made them even more committed to serve and protect communities.

"In a way we have become fearless. People ask me if I'm not scared and I always tell them I'm not - I'm motivated to work harder."

Ndlovu-Miya, who is also the operational coordinator of the SAPS women's network, says she is not fazed by people who try to undermine her simply because she is a woman.

"It happens everywhere," she says. "Ask any woman who is climbing the ladder.

"Some people think a woman cannot get to a higher position on her own.

"Such comments make me so angry. Women have led for years and are continuing to do so," Ndlovu-Miya says.