While the South African Police Service (SAPS) has made significant inroads in promoting women to managerial roles, Police Minister Bheki Cele says greater female empowerment in the organisation is "not a negotiable and must be realised".
The Minister made these remarks while officiating the annual 2022 National Police Day on Thursday.
This year's event was themed "Celebrating the Role of Women in Policing", recognising policewomen continue to make their mark in policing environments.
Cele began his address by recognising former policewomen who had paved the way for the current crop of female police officers.
He said: "We salute those female trailblazers that against all odds demonstrated that women are more than up to the task to lead with integrity and excellence. Excellency comes to mind when I think about some of the many female police officers in our boardrooms or those patrolling the streets.
He said it was this excellence that had seen police delivering one of the safest festive seasons to date.
The Minister also spoke on how women officers are expected to treat victims of gender-based violence (GBV).
"Treat them like you are their mother before you're an officer. You don't tell them to go back and negotiate because they will come for the first and second time, and when you don't see them coming for the third time, they are dead," he said.
Whenever women report abuse, they should be attended to.
"Stop everything and attend to that. Forget that you are an officer and say 'now, as a mother, I'm dealing with another mother or my daughter. This goes for not just you (female officers) but all those that are in this service. GBV and femicide is one thing that together [we] must put our shoulders to the wheel and make sure that we work harder," he said.
He expressed pride at the milestones that women of the SAPS continue to achieve in their policing environment, which was until 1972, only reserved for men.
"You can't believe that you have been here for a very short time, but I can see you on your track overtaking men. Don't hold back, go for it. It has not been easy for women to make their mark in previously male-dominated units within the organisation. I'm happy that this organisation values the importance of gender equality.
He said this had been demonstrated by the increasing number of women in all levels of managerial positions.
However, he said greater women empowerment in the SAPS is "not a negotiable and must be realised".
Creating safe spaces
He also paid tribute to all members of the SAPS for the sacrifices they had made in ensuring safety and security during the festive season.
"As we commemorate, let us also focus energies on what still needs to be done to create a safer environment for all people in South Africa, especially women. I wish to make a call on the organisation that women must feel safe when they are with their colleagues."
He remind male colleagues that women were in the service to serve the nation. "They're here to protect, they are not here for your pleasures."
The Minister urged police management to never tire from "flushing out the few rotten apples who hide behind this beautiful blue uniform but choose the life of criminality."
Pockets of criminality within the organisation could not be allowed to tarnish the excellence that was being celebrated.
"This is an organisation of excellence. I know when I grew up, I was told that if you can't do very well at school you need to go and join the police; no more - you must be excellent. This is an organisation of excellence."
He urged officers to focus on executing their duties and pay no mind to naysayers.
"We celebrate you and we want you to know your commitment to the organisation and fight against crime is highly valued."