The Women's Prestige Awards ceremony of the South African Police Service (SAPS) was held last night, Thursday 15 November 2012 at the Casambo Executive Lodge in Mpumalanga.
This annual event is held to acknowledge the excellent services rendered to communities by individual women employees of the SAPS, duties that go far beyond the normal call of duty.
The ten finalists, one from each province and one from Head Office, were all chosen because of the outstanding work that they have done over and above their policing duties to uplift disadvantaged members of the community, especially women and children.
The good deeds for which the finalists were recognised range from initiatives to fight drug abuse among the youth, raising funds to provide a seaside holiday for destitute senior citizens, the adoption of schools, crèches and destitute children including a little boy with no hands or legs, initiatives to combat poverty and to provide food to orphanages as well as projects to reduce the incidents of domestic violence.
The SAPS Women's Prestige Awards Ceremony has been held annually since 2006, with the hosting duties rotating among the Provinces. The concept emanated from the SAPS Women's Network which is currently an affiliate of the International Association of Women Police (IAWP). This association creates a platform for international recognition of female law enforcement officers.
The SAPS Women's Network won the bid to host the IAWP's annual training conference to be held in Durban in September 2013. This promises to be an extraordinary international conference and this will be the first time it is being hosted in an African country. The SAPS is immensely proud to be hosting this event which will see the women police officers of the Southern African Region in the forefront of law enforcement issues.
During last night's awards ceremony, the National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Riah Phiyega gave a powerful, motivating speech in which she described the career path of policewomen in South Africa.
Although formal policing was established in this country in 1913, women were only permitted to enlist and train in 1972 and that group was made up exclusively of white women. Other race groups were recruited in phases over the next decade, with the last group being African women, who were sworn in and trained in 1983, seventy years after the establishment of a police force. "Just over forty years ago, there was not one single woman in the former South African Police. Now, women make up 37% of top management of the South African Police Service", said General Phiyega.
The National Commissioner, significantly the first woman at the helm of the police in its 99 year history, also stated: "If there is one characteristic that every strong democracy in the world shares, it is a celebration and advancement of its women. Whenever we talk about how to support democracy, we must be sure that women are not just a part of the discussion, but at the table to help lead that discussion".
The highlight of the evening was, of course, the announcement of the winners.
We are proud to announce that Sergeant Njengabo Olga Masethla from Gauteng Province was the overall winner and was awarded a cash prize of R35 000. She was also the first South African police woman to receive the International Association of Women Police (IAWP)'s international prestigious award, and she is the first African woman to receive the Community Service Award at the 50th IAWP Training Conference, which took place in Newfoundland, Canada during September 2012.
Colonel Anette Lombard from SAPS Head Office was the first runner up and her prize was a cash award of R20 000, with the second runner up, Lieutenant Colonel Muriel Nokulunga Novandla receiving R15 000. The other seven finalists were each the recipient of a R10 000 prize.
The opportunity afforded to the various Provincial Women's Network branches, as well as the Head Office Divisions to showcase their community projects and efforts in the form of exhibitions, was also judged by appointed panelists. The proud winners of the best exhibition for 2012, was the SAPS Head Office, Women's Network. The first runner up, was the hosting Province for the event, Mpumalanga Province and the second runner up, the North-West Province.
The South African Police Service is immensely proud of our 10 heroines in blue. Each one left her comfort zone and ventured into the community, not only to serve and protect, but to nurture, feed, save and educate. General Phiyega so aptly told them: "What makes your achievements so remarkable is that your actions for which you are being rewarded tonight, were giving acts of love. You did not seek reward for your good deeds, which I am sure, will make the reward even sweeter".