This police officer has nerves of steel and is always ready to deal with any explosive situation.
Bomb disposal specialist Constable Mammokso Motaung (37) stares down death every time she’s called to defuse an explosive device, a job that’s a lot more complicated than it appears in the movies.
There’s much more to it than snipping a red or black wire, she explains. “I have to disconnect the wires from the charge. People can create bombs with any colour wires. If the device has four black wires, how are you going to know which one to cut?
“Even if it’s the same colour, I know which one to cut. It’s usually the one connected to the charge,” she explains.
Single mom Mammokso, who grew up in the Free State, is the only female bomb disposal specialist in the Germiston Explosives Section of the Gauteng police, and one of 18 female bomb specialists in the SA police countrywide.
It’s an achievement of which the mom of two is extremely proud.
“It makes me feel like the world’s relying on me,” she tells us from her office. “I feel very special and I’m very proud of it.”
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The superwoman attends to bomb incidents, including disarming explosives at ATM bombings, cash-in-transit heists, explosives recoveries, and incidents involving suspicious parcels.
“I’m always facing dangerous situations. When you’re working with a bomb, it’s not going to be easy.
“But after the training, the bombs become your toys. When you get to the scene, you prepare your mind already for whatever is going to happen there and deal with it,” she says.
Mammokso’s work also sees her carrying out bomb scene investigations where she handles the identification, collection, and examination of evidence.
She joined the police service in 2003 as a reservist at the Phuthaditjhaba police station in the Free State.
As a reservist, Mammokso performed part-time policing functions in her community on a voluntary basis, and from 2005, she worked as an accounting clerk at the Park Road police station in Bloemfontein. She later enlisted to train as a police officer and qualified, becoming a constable in 2012.
She was intrigued by a job ad for a police bomb disposal specialist. Applicants for this position needed to have a NQF6 qualification in electrical engineering, or undergo training offered by the police.
“From a young age I dreamt of doing something that men do, something people think women can’t do. So I tried my luck and applied.”
The training was tough, she recalls, and there were times she though she should just give up, “but I told myself that I’m going to make it, I can’t give up now”.
After completing her six-month basic training in bomb disposing, she was transferred to Germiston Explosives section in 2017, where she has to put in action everything she’s learned.
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Since being on the job, she’s had to disarm two bombs, including an explosive device which was planted at an ATM during the outbreak of looting in KwaZulu-Natal last month.
“I just tell myself that I’ve been trained for it, so I’m going to disarm it and I’m going to make the scene safe,” she says.
Even though she’s the only woman in her unit, Mammokso says has the respect of her male colleagues.
“We work as a team. They’ve never undermined me or said that I can’t do certain things because I’m a woman. They’ve never disrespected me, and they’ve always been there for me.”
Despite the danger she faces daily, Mammokso says her 14-old-daughter, Kabelo, is extremely proud of her.
“Kabelo was scared of me doing my job, but she understands that I love it,” says Mammokso, who also has a nine-month-old son, Kutlwano. “She used to ask if I could get another job, but I told her I’m in love with this one. Now she’s even told me that I’m her role model!”