Veteran SA police officer Ben Groenewald to head up Fiji’s force

2014-04-28 00:00

FOUR years after his retirement, a former major-general of the South African Police Service has been appointed as head of the Fiji police.

“Policing is something I do from the heart, it is a service I yearned to render since I retired. I believe I can make a difference in Fiji,” said former Major-General Ben Groenewald (64).

Groenewald retired in 2010 after serving for 42 years and six months. He chaired the government’s official operational structure (Joints), which oversaw the preparations for the 2010 World Cup.

Prior to this, he was, among others, the commander of the police college, a member of the VIP unit attached to former president P.W. Botha and head of former president F.W. de Klerk’s security.

During the tumultuous eighties, Groenewald was hit over the head with a flag pole by the late Eugene Terre-Blanche, during a scuffle with the then leader of the Afrikaner resistance movement, the AWB.

After Groenewald’s retirement he consulted at the police academy and on organising large events.

He was approached to apply for the position as head of Fiji’s police.

The island state with 860 000 citizens, which in 2006 experienced a coup d’état, will hold democratic elections in September.

Fiji’s membership of the Commonwealth was suspended after the coup and it may return to the fold if it meets certain conditions.

“The initial offer that was made to me was for a term of five years. My wife, Louise, and I made it a matter of prayer and decided not to accept the offer. It was just too long.”

Fiji then made Groenewald a new offer of just two years. He said he may stay longer should the circumstances warrant it. The couple depart next month.

“My biggest challenge will be to arrive as a stranger and to adapt to the Fiji culture. Luckily, the Fijians are unbelievably friendly people and crazy about rugby.

“I believe it is a good practice to appoint as head of police someone who has come through the ranks. The police has its own sub-culture, which must be understood so that the officers can work as a family . It is sad that the same thing is not happening here in South Africa. The last three heads of police were not appointed from the police,” he said.

Groenewald said Fiji did not have a lot of crime and was mainly a rural area that had to be policed. Groenewald also wants to put in place a bilateral co-operation agreement between Fiji and South Africa’s police services. “The countries can mutually benefit from each other’s expertise,” he said.

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