cops declare war on fat

MORE than 2000 police officers sweated away their fat bellies yesterday at the Orlando Communal Hall in an attempt to get fit.

South African Police Service and Correctional Service members started training at 9am and the programme continued until 2pm.

"This is a good programme for us, especially for those who are overweight like me," said an officer who did not want to be named.

He said the departments had a problem with "fat cops" who could not chase criminals.

The fitness programme was initiated in 1997 in Johannesburg to keep cops fit and healthy and has now been rolled out to the rest of Gauteng. This year's training is themed "let's sweat and have fun".

Joburg prison warden Danisile Mthombeni said: "I enjoy the exercises. I have had four operations on my back and exercising helps keep me strong and healthy."

The 47-year-old officer said she coped well with her demanding job because she was always active.

Most cops said the programme helped them mentally and physically.

"It keeps us motivated and takes away stress," said sergeant Busi Menoe of the Westonaria police station.

Boxing legend Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala, who is one of the trainers, said: "The programme empowers police physically and makes them effective in their work.

"We need more youngsters who are energetic to join the police force."

Matlala urged the Johannesburg Metro Police Department to join the programme.

Inspector Sipho Thwala, who initiated the programme, said there was a lack of fitness among the police.

"If you are not fit you can't be competent," he said.