Career cop to clean up 'gangster paradise'

New Gauteng policecommissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela commits to working smarter to prevent crime.
New Gauteng policecommissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela commits to working smarter to prevent crime.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

Gauteng's new top cop , Lt-Gen Elias Mawela, considers ascending to the position as just another "redeployment".

Barely hours after his announcement as the province's new police commissioner last week, Mawela, who's been in the police service for more than 34 years, spent most of the day pacing up and down, and meeting dozens of his new subordinates.

"I've been hearing people congratulating me on the appointment. I have not been appointed but redeployed.

"Remember I have worked in various positions, both at national and provincial levels," Mawela said.

The 53-year-old began learning his trade at Mamelodi East police station in 1984. Thus, making the announcement of his appointment as the new top sheriff of the province at the same police station makes it all the more sentimental.

He has worked his way up and served as a commissioner at various police stations in the province including Diepkloof, Akasia, and Pretoria Central.

Mawela has also occupied various roles within the provincial and national police service such as being the deputy area commissioner in Pretoria, head of ports of entry, and divisional commissioner of operating response services.

Mawela, who has a calm aura about him, said he had a full view of the crimes committed and reported in Gauteng, often referred to as gangsters' paradise, due to the experience he gained throughout his career.

"I have been a station commander at various police stations and I have served in other capacities in the provincial and national set-up.

I have seen a full picture of crime in this province, and it is worrying.

"What we need to do is to prevent crimes from happening because investigations are expensive and take time. If we can prevent crimes from being committed, we can save lives, time and energy."

A man of few words, Mawela said he would not want to blow his own horn.

Lt-Gen Elias Mawela is the new Gauteng police commissioner.
Lt-Gen Elias Mawela is the new Gauteng police commissioner.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

"I think we will take the cue from what the minister said.

I don't want to say that I have done this and that but people have a different view on how I performed as a station commander in the various police stations," Mawela said.

Mawela said his colleagues and community members were the judges of his performance.

"I have worked to the best of my ability to deliver on the mandate I was given," he said.

He hasn't had a smooth ride in his career as there were allegations he was party to a secret meeting days before to the Marikana massacre in August 2012 while serving as the chairperson of the national joint operational and intelligence structures.

He moved quickly to deny any wrongdoing from his end and said the meeting was in no way related to the planning to contain the volatile situation during the miners' strike at Lonmin mines in Rustenburg.

"I have heard people talking about the meeting and me being a part of it. Let me make it clear, it was a police management meeting. People don't understand that our meeting was not for planning purposes, it was a management meeting."

Mawela has also had a stint as head of ports of entry where he developed a new policing and security model currently implemented at all ports of entry in the country.

His time in that position was not without controversy as there was a robbery in 2008 at an SAP 13 storeroom at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg where R8m in local and foreign currency along with R7m worth of drugs were stolen.

"It's difficult when you have your own working with criminals and it's worse when people from agencies and departments are colluding with criminals.

"What we did was to develop strong intelligence and strengthened every component of our security," Mawela said.

Lt-Gen Elias Mawela.
Lt-Gen Elias Mawela.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

"With the issue of evidence going missing from the storeroom; it happened and people were arrested - a lieutenant-general and a warrant officer."

Mawela said he was proud of his legacy as the head of ports of entry and has curbed a worrying trend.

"What was important to us was to counter the human element in any security system that we adopted because humans are always planning.

So we have had to work with other countries to reduce smuggling from formal and informal ports of entry," he said.

Apart from being a career policeman, Mawela is a staunch Orlando Pirates fan and said even the club's chairman, Irvin Khoza, knew about his love for the Buccaneers.

He enjoys attending big football games and getting his hands dirty cleaning and maintaining his garden.

"On weekends I work in my garden and listen to jazz, but when I want to listen to rhythm, I switch to reggae," he said, adding that Bob Marley was one of his favourite musicians.

Mawela is studying towards a BTech in forensic investigations and holds a national diploma in police administration and a BA degree in public administration.

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