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May 02, 2013

South African Policewoman is Positive Role Model

by Thuso Khumalo

South African police had a reputation for brutality during the oppressive, decades-long apartheid regime.  More recently, police grabbed headlines for shooting dead 34 striking miners last year and for dragging a Mozambican man behind a police car earlier this year.

Sergeant Olga Masethla says her goal is to change those perceptions by involving herself closely with the community she oversees in crime-ridden eastern Johannesburg.
 
Since Masethla started patrolling the area three years ago, residents say they have seen fewer incidents of property crime and domestic violence.
 
Masethla has received numerous provincial, national and international awards, including the 2012 International Association of Women Police Community Award.

"When I started the project, I didn’t do the project for any prestige.  I did it because I loved what I’m doing, because to me policing is not a career, it's a calling," she said.

Masethla has formed clubs for the elderly and the young in her patrol area.  She uses these forums to involve the community in crime prevention and reporting.

She has also started an exercise program for older women in the community.
 
And she often speaks to children to educate them about police and crime prevention, says daycare operator Zakhele Lushaba.

“She makes the friendship with the kids, and the kids when they saw Olga they feel happy and say Olga our friend our friend, and she always comes here and helps us with some blankets," said Lushaba.
 
Masethla has received overwhelming support from other police officers, as well as from her bosses - like Lieutenant Colonel Andy Pieke.

"You know we have a few bad apples, but the majority of our police members are doing their work properly," said Pieke.

In this community, Sergeant Olga Masethla has given residents something to sing about.