New crime fighters in city

2011-01-04 00:00

THE Mountain Rise police station in Pietermaritzburg is set to shed its notorious image following the appointment of a new station commissioner.

Brigadier Francis Bantham (41) yesterday took charge at the station, which serves the whole of the city’s northern suburbs and informal settlements. Her appointment comes at the same time as that of the former Estcourt police station commissioner, Brigadier Johan Reynders, who now heads Pietermaritzburg’s Central police station.

Bantham, who said she had made her mark while she was commanding Umbumbulu police station south of Durban, said that when she wrote her application letter for the new position she already knew lots of bad things about the station.

“We need to turn things around. I’m up to the challenge because of my ability to interact with community members. I believe that I will definitely change that police station with the help of the community and you (the media),” she said.

Mountain Rise police station has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the past. Its controversial former director, Hariram Badul, was charged with corruption and theft, among other cases. Badul will be going back to the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court on February 11 to set a date for his high court trial.

Bantham, a married mother of three teenagers, is confident that she made a mark in Umbumbulu, despite the fact that she was there for only nine months. She has been a police officer for the past 20 years.

“When I was in Umbumbulu we discovered a big cable theft syndicate and arrested 11 suspects whose case is still pending. They would use the cable for illegally connecting electricity for R3 500 per house. They had already connected more than 200 houses. After disconnecting the illegal power I approached Eskom, which came back to the community and reconnected electricity legally,” she said.

Reynders, a veteran who has headed the Estcourt police station for the past 13 years, says his goal is to eliminate the source of crime rather than prioritising arrests.

He is known for combating faction fighting in the Estcourt area.

“I don’t think there is any specific challenge at the police station. So my duty will focus on service delivery and concentrating on the root of crime. Unemployment and drugs might be the cause, but it is a challenge to deal with the issue of unemployment. So I will have to work with our community policing forum, NGOs and business sector to find a solution,” said Reynders (53).

His wife, Petro, will move Pietermaritzburg soon.

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