District’s new top cop has seen it all

2016-09-15 10:06
New cluster commander, Bongi Sithole.

New cluster commander, Bongi Sithole. (Ian Carbutt)

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With 30 years’ experience in taking down hardened criminals, Pietermaritzburg’s new police boss is ready to deal a crippling blow to crime in her cluster.

Since last week, Pietermaritzburg’s uMgungundlovu North cluster — which encompasses 13 police stations in and around the city — has had a new leader at its helm.

With a wealth of experience in various specialised policing units, Major-General Bongi Sithole, during an exclusive interview with The Witness on Wednesday, said she is ready to make a difference.

Sithole takes over from former acting cluster commander Brigadier Francis Bantham — who has since been appointed at Sithole’s right hand as a deputy — and will manage various stations including Mountain Rise.

The media-shy Sithole said she started her career 30 years ago in Umlazi.

She slowly climbed the ranks, moving between various specialised units to sustain the “vibe” or the thrill she would receive when bringing criminals to justice.

Sithole said she was the first woman in the province to work at the then South African Narcotics Bureau, where she dealt with drug dealers and other vice crimes.

“Working undercover was exciting for me. I remember posing as a domestic worker and cleaning the house of a drug dealer to get information on him,” she laughed.

Sithole then went on to work at the Organised Crime and Crime Intelligence units until she was appointed to a management position in the former Durban North cluster.

In 2010, Sithole was made station commander at KwaDukuza and, most recently, was wearing two hats as the Pinetown station commander as well as the acting cluster commander for that area.

“I think I have touched base with most of the components in the police,” Sithole said.

Describing one the highlights of her extensive career, Sithole recalled busting a dagga mule on board a bus travelling to Cape Town.

“I had received information from my informant that the man had been travelling on a high-end coach line and was given his seat number and everything.

“We bust the man with eight bags of dagga,” she said.

Speaking about her plans for her cluster, Sithole said she needs to “analyse and scrutinise” the problems and crimes each station experiences before she can establish teams and projects.

“We will zoom into each issue and set goals and objectives we need to achieve. I believe you cannot work in silos within the police.

“I believe in partnerships with the community and working hand in hand with various role players in the fight against crime.”

Sithole described herself as a strict, no-nonsense commander.

“There will always be a policewoman in me. From school, I went straight into the police. The police’s ethics and values is all I know, and when my officers reach the community, they must bear the same ethics and values,” she said, adding that “discipline is important”.

But it is not all work and no play for Pietermaritzburg’s new police boss.

In her spare time, Sithole enjoys watching TV and travelling to new places, while taking care of her two children, one of whom is a member of the Durban Metro police.

Sithole’s command covers the Mountain Rise, Howick, Bishopstowe, Cramond, Harburg, Wartburg, Boston, Impendle, Mpophomeni, New Hanover, Mooi River, Nottingham Road and Dalton police stations.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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