Counsellor, top cop say cheers to SAPS

Captain Yolanda Kotze with Maritha Lochner on Ms Lochners last day at Cape Town Central police station.

Two staff members at Cape Town Central police have left the service after a combined 71 years in the force.

Colonel Andre Roziers has hung up his uniform for good after 33 years in the South African Police Service, while victim support counsellor and typist Maritha Lochner retired after 38 years of working at the station.

Ms Lochner, fondly known as Mama at Cape Town Central SAPS, started working at the station in 1981 after she decided to make a change from her job as office manager a dental practice.

She started out as a typist – on a typewriter – writing up memos, letters and minutes of cluster, provincial and sometimes community police forum (CPF) meetings.

After a few years, Ms Lochner volunteered as a victim support counsellor and received her training with her manager Captain Yolanda Kotze, who would later become her long-time friend.

“When someone goes through a lot of trauma when they are a victim of crime, we support them to the end, we go with them to hospitals if need, and to court, and prepare them for what is expected during the investigation and the trial.”

She said house robberies were particularly traumatic, as criminals invaded people’s homes, and victims were in all types of emotional states. She also received training to work with victims of human-trafficking, and worked closely with the Hawks and non-profit organisations in such cases.

“Victims came from as far as Nigeria, Johannesburg and Durban. Most of them come for work, and later, we discover they were actually trafficked.”

She said while victim support counselling was a voluntary job which can become emotional for the counsellors too, it can also be very rewarding.

“People who are counselled become friends.

“They will always pop in for a cup of tea or call to ask how we are doing.”

She said the trained counsellors even helped out with the staff at the station, and for always lending an ear, Ms Lochner got the nickname Mama.

“If members are feeling down or they need some advice, they come and chat to me and I will make them tea and listen to them. She said after 38 years in the police, with 15 of those volunteering as a victim support counsellor, she feels she did her duty to the community.

“I didn’t know the city at all before I started as a victim support counsellor and now I got to know the people so well. I’ve made good friends and contacts.”

She said she had built good relationships with the community, and always did early morning food drives for the homeless, late night pamphlet drives on the clubbing scenes, and hosted recreational activities for the personnel at Cape Town Central SAPS.

“We went the extra mile but we didn’t mind because when you work for an organisation like the police, you start caring for the community and you want to make a difference.

“Cape Town Central SAPS has become my family. This became my safe house.

There was always someone to support me, and I supported them.”

With all the memories she has at the police station, Ms Lochner recalls a time when she and Captain Kotze had to take the post to the provincial commissioner’s office one morning. However, there were no vehicles.

“On this day, the mounted unit with the horses were visiting the station, and we asked one of the officers to deliver the post to the provincial commissioner’s office for us.

“We eventually convinced him and we put the post in a bag and off he went to deliver the post by horse. When he got back, we organised a pack of carrots for the horse. It was the funniest thing.”

She has also kept all her payslips from when she started. “Back then we used to get paid in a brown envelope, and queued to collect it.”

Captain Kotze, who has been working with Ms Lochner for 28 years, said she was like a mother to the people at the station. “She’s like a taxi – there’s always space for one more. She always smells good, gives lots of hugs, and always has treats in her bag for people at the station.

“I’ll have to continue that when she leaves. “She also taught me to always apply lipstick – even if you are just going to the bathroom down the passage.”

Ms Lochner plans to rest during her retirement, and spend some time with her mom, who is 96 years old.

Meanwhile, when Colonel Roziers first came to Cape Town as a young student of Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) , he never knew he would later be the head of visible policing or the acting station commander of the area.

Born and bred in Paarl, Colonel Roziers first came to the city in 1985 as a human resource management student when the CPUT faculty moved to Long Street. The anti-apartheid riots were disruptive for the students in the city, so his father, being a police officer himself, encouraged him to join the SAPS.

He then worked in the Boland area, at stations including Franschhoek, Philadelphia and Klapmuts, climbing the ranks, and after eight years, became the first non-white officer at Paarl police station.

He was then promoted to station commander at Mbekweni police station, and then four years later, was appointed station commander at Groot Drakenstein police station – where his father had been a police officer.

Colonel Roziers then left for Johannesburg after being appointed as a unit commander in the SAPS protection security services, working closely with none other than the late Nelson Mandela, and other ministers.

“I used to sit and stand next to Nelson Mandela and frequent his home.

“I was responsible for the safety of the ministers and the premier. I worked with Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki as well.”

Four years later, Colonel Roziers returned to Cape Town due to personal responsibilities, and was appointed as operational events co-ordinator and was instrumental in the safety planning and mapping out routes for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the Cape Town Carnival, and the Cape Town Cycle Tour among other events.

“My team created a safety plan blueprint for big events and paved the way for policing at such events. The most important things were visible policing and partnerships. All the tiers of government worked together willingly to make the events a success, so why can’t we do it to fight crime? I am convinced that if the SAPS use this model at police stations, they will be able to make a difference.”

In 2015, Colonel Roziers was promoted to the head of visible policing at Cape Town Central police, and was acting station commander for a year as well.

“This year, I formed part of the launch of the anti-gang unit, where I was an operational commander. For the first three months it was chaotic – we didn’t get much sleep. I returned a month ago to officially end my career at SAPS after 33 years.”

Colonel Roziers will spend his extra time with people who have impacted his life in some way.

“You become such a loyal, committed officer that you don’t have time for other things, so now I realise that you need a balance.”

He said while he had made some lifelong friends in the police, he would miss his uniform the most.

“I’m going to miss the discipline and the pride wearing my uniform gives me. I want people to know that there are some very good, committed and hard-working police officers, and I would like to see them get rid of the corrupt officers who give SAPS a bad name.’