IN­SPI­RA­TION Decades of fight­ing for jus­tice

Ntombiza­khe Mcaba is com­mit­ted to fight for those who can't fight for them­selves

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Bonolo Sekudu

THE con­tri­bu­tion that Lieu­tenant-Colonel Ntombiza­khe Mcaba (59) has made in her com­mu­nity can never go un­no­ticed. She is com­mit­ted to rais­ing her voice for the voiceless, marginalised and op­pressed and tak­ing ac­tion against in­jus­tice. When she speaks about fight­ing for equal­ity, this sums up her life as it is what she has done for over three decades in the South African Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS).

BE­COM­ING ONE OF THE WOMEN IN BLUE

Grow­ing up in Port El­iz­a­beth, East­ern Cape, Ntombiza­khe has al­ways been brave to speak up. Her mother was a nurse and her fa­ther a po­lice­man.

“My mom wanted me to fol­low in her foot­steps, but I found what my dad was do­ing more ap­peal­ing,” she says.

She says there were not a lot of ca­reer op­tions for black peo­ple, es­pe­cially women. She re­calls how she was part of the “dis­rup­tors” in 1976 dur­ing the apartheid regime. At the time, she was still in high school.

“Per­haps that’s where my ob­ses­sion with jus­tice started,” she says. In 1981, the first group of black women were in­ducted into the SAPS and in 1982, she was part of the sec­ond group to join.

EX­PE­RI­ENC­ING OPPRESSION

Her en­thu­si­asm of start­ing a new job was soon met with dis­ap­point­ment when she and her fel­low fe­male col­leagues ex­pe­ri­enced oppression.

“We were not taken se­ri­ously. Imag­ine go­ing to ar­rest a white man (a sus­pected crim­i­nal), who would not sit at the back of a car or van. Be­cause they were white, they sat in front. When you got to the sta­tion, you had to hand-over the sus­pect to a white or coloured of­fi­cer to con­tinue with doc­u­men­ta­tion. It was so dis­heart­en­ing,” she says.

Al­though black po­lice­men were also op­pressed, things were even worse for po­lice­women. “We went through the same train­ing and work rou­tines but, were not treated the same by virtue of be­ing women,” she says.

She says the worst was when women were not al­lowed to have chil­dren with men out­side of the po­lice ser­vice, but men could.

“Fur­ther­more, you had to be mar­ried first be­fore hav­ing a baby with that man oth­er­wise you would

WE WERE NOT TREATED THE SAME

face a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing and dis­missal,” she says.

“Those con­di­tions were ridicu­lous for women, while the po­lice men would be al­lowed to be with any woman even out­side the po­lice ser­vice.”

WINDS OF CHANGE

Ntombiza­khe's brav­ery would not let her leave things as they were.

This is why she was at the fore­front when the Po­lice and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), which rep­re­sents po­lice, traf­fic and cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers, was formed.She was de­ter­mined to bring about change.

“I am so proud to have been part of mak­ing sure change hap­pens. It gives me great joy to see that to­day, women are able to ben­e­fit from the seeds that were planted by peo­ple like me,” she says.

It has been 36 years since she ded­i­cated her life to the SAPS. She served for two terms as the vice pres­i­dent of Popcru, where she was at the top when it came to mak­ing nec­es­sary changes.

Af­ter over three decades in ser­vice, she still re­tains what may be con­sid­ered a ju­nior post, but she says she chose not to give it too much at­ten­tion.

“I know I was prob­a­bly per­ceived to be too opin­ion­ated as one would hear in the cor­ri­dors that peo­ple were afraid of me and thought I would not be ‘sub­mis­sive’ to au­thor­ity. I think those per­cep­tions might have been the rea­son for not be­ing in a higher rank de­spite hav­ing what it takes,” says Ntombiza­khe.

Her im­pact also spread in­ter­na­tion­ally, where she served as pres­i­dent of the Pub­lic Ser­vice In­ter­na­tional, Sub-Re­gional Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (SUBRAC).

MAK­ING SACRIFICES

Ntombiza­khe says be­ing an ac­tivist means sac­ri­fic­ing your life to make oth­ers' lives bet­ter.

Her two daugh­ters, aged 40 and 30, had to learn from a young age that their mother chose a ca­reer that re­quires her to be on the road. If she was not tour­ing the coun­try, she was abroad mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in pub­lic ser­vice.

“When I look back, that is a sac­ri­fice that hurt a lot, es­pe­cially as my chil­dren are girls. They had to get used to not hav­ing me around a lot,” she says.

In 2016, she was in South Su­dan for a United Na­tions peace-keep­ing mis­sion at a time when a war had bro­ken out there.

“I could not abort the mis­sion. I told my­self that I would go there and do the work I was en­trusted with. While the war waged on and oth­ers were scared that their lives would end in a for­eign coun­try, I calmed them down and told them we would fin­ish the peace­keep­ing mis­sion as we had ini­tially com­mit­ted,” she says.

In 2017, she came back to serve at the SAPS head of­fice in Pre­to­ria, where she leads the women’s net­work fo­rums and cham­pi­oning for women’s rights. She was awarded the life-time achieve­ment award dur­ing the 2018 Women’s Net­work and Men for Change for Pre-Em­i­nence Awards.

STAND-UP FOR OTH­ERS

Ntombiza­khe says to be great as a woman, you don’t need to hold a high po­si­tion and make a dif­fer­ence.

“We have not ar­rived, but as women we have made changes. Be strong and lib­er­ate your­selves of in­jus­tice. Be a voice for those who are marginalised in the spa­ces you are.”

She will be re­tir­ing soon, but says she is proud to have served with pride and will con­tinue to do the work she has al­ways done.

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