By Jessie Taylor

Among the ranks of the South African Police Service (SAPS) are a number of women striving to serve their communities, creating a safer South Africa for all. Despite the police force being established in 1913, women were enlisted as ‘full members of the force’ for the first time on 1 January 1972. At the time when two women were appointed as commanders of the newly established ‘women police force’. But it still took almost a decade before women were allowed to work on patrol, undercover and do investigative work.

Today, women police members form an integral part of the SAPS, bringing strength, innovation and unwavering resilience, often going beyond the call of duty in serving their communities.

Here are four women in blue considered game changers in their respective fields:

Colonel Fiona Hawkins

Colonel Fiona Hawkins is the epitome of the age-old saying ‘dynamite comes in small packages’. The just over 1,5m tall police member serves as a Bomb Disposal specialist. She joined the police service 20 years ago as a student constable, going to complete her Tactical Policing training after her basic police training in 2002.

“I always wanted to become a policewoman and be part of the action in the fight against crime in our country. My height was a challenge and I kept on applying until I was finally accepted in 2002,” says Colonel Hawkins.

She vividly recalls the day she was recruited to join the Explosive Section in 2004, while still based at SAPS Stilfontein in the North West province. She went on to complete the Basic Bomb Technician course that same year and made history when she became the first woman of colour within the SAPS to be a qualified Bomb Technician. 

Eighteen years later, she still serves in the Explosives Section, as one of only two female members rendering explosives control in Gauteng. In 2019 Hawkins was promoted to the rank of Colonel and appointed as commander of the Explosives Section in Gauteng. 

“You need to have a strong mindset, ‘nerves of steel’ and a craving for adrenaline to pursue this career path,” Colonel Hawkins says.

Constable Sikelelwa Sifingo

This 29-year-old police member serves as a motor mechanic at the Maitland Garage in Cape Town – a career that was inspired by watching her father servicing his own vehicle and being sent on errands to buy motor spares. 

She studied motor mechanics at False Bay College, after which she completed a four-year apprenticeship at the Barloworld Academy. But she wanted to work on other vehicle brands, and this led her to apply for a position in the SAPS, which houses an extensive fleet of different vehicles. Her work may be behind the scenes, but Constable Sifingo’s service is essential – without a reliable vehicle fleet, the crime-fighting efforts of the SAPS cannot reach the communities in which they are needed.

For Constable Sifingo, joining the service has not only allowed her to gain new experience, but also to form part of a family.

“From the commanders to my colleagues, I am treated with so much respect. It is heart-warming,” she says.

Warrant Officer Anel Esterhuizen

Warrant Officer Anel Esterhuizen works in the Public Order Police (POP) environment. Described as an “all-rounder”, she has 31 years of uninterrupted service and is a public order police training instructor as well as a qualified medic.

Warrant Officer Esterhuizen has a code 10 license, and drives large police vehicles such as the previously used Casspir and today’s Nyala, an armoured vehicle used police during raids and public protests. These armoured vehicles are very strong and powerful and are resilient to being shot at, stones and petrol bombs. She also drives and operates the water cannon, which is a truck that shoots a high-velocity stream of water and is used in crowd control management to disperse large crowds. 

Having been raised by her father after her mother passed away when she was three, Warrant Officer Esterhuizen has never been intimidated by a male-dominated environment. From an early age, she learned to be at the forefront, and no task is ever daunting for her. 

Lieutenant General Tebello Mosikili

Appointed in July, Lieutenant General Tebello Mosikili is the country’s first female Deputy National Commissioner responsible for Policing. She is responsibly for overseeing all Visible Policing and Operational environments, as well as Protection Security Services (PSS). She also takes over the role as Co-Chairperson of the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS)

She joined the police service 33 years ago as a student constable, and today is a highly decorated member who has served in a number of roles, including as an investigator, station commander and the Provincial Head responsible for Visible Policing in the Free State. She also served as the Deputy Provincial Commissioner responsible for Crime Detection in Gauteng.

Lieutenant General Mosikili has represented the country in New York, Singapore, Netherlands and America on crime-fighting efforts and also serves as a board member of Crime Stoppers International (CSI), a global non-profit organization committed to supporting law enforcement efforts by mobilizing citizens to anonymously share information about crime.


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