WHEN Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe cracked one serious murder case after the other in Bolobedu in the early 90’s, he had no idea that was the beginning of a long and rewarding career in the South Africa Police Services (SAPS).
The then young detective, who was tasked with probing cases involving the murders of two people or more, as well as culpable homicide cases involving the deaths of four people or more, had managed to round up and lock high profile criminals in the Mopani area of Limpopo, especially around Ga-Kgapane and Tzaneen.
In one of the incidences, the young Ngoepe had been called in to investigate the murders of a certain Mr. Raolane, who had been hijacked, kidnapped and eventually killed alongside his son at Khetlhakone – the headquarters of the Modjadji Queenship in the Greater Letaba Municipality – about 130 km east of Polokwane.
It was a complex case. The suspects were unknown. The victims were missing. Their bodies unaccounted for. And the whereabouts of their car unknown.
After working on the case for months, Ngoepe finally made a breakthrough. He traced the victims’ bodies to a shallow grave in the Molototsi River, and the stripped car’s parts to the buyers in various villages including Morapalala, Motlhommene and Mmadumane.
“I successfully investigated that case, which was so quite. Suspects were unknown, nobody knew what had happened but I cracked it. After killing them, they had buried them inside Molototsi River.
They took the vehicle and cut it into pieces, and went to sell those parts and I managed to collect all those vehicle parts back to the family. They were successfully convicted and sentenced to life by the High Court in Tzaneen,” recalls Colonel Ngoepe.
“As a detective I had a 100 percent solution on my cases, meaning that I was investigating cases of murder, culpable homicide where four people upwards were killed during the incidents, and almost 95 percent of the people we had arrested were sent to jail for life, and five percent would receive 10 years to 15 years.”
Colonel Ngoepe’s hard work paid off again today when Limpopo Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Nneke Ledwaba appointed the 55-year-old as the province’s new SAPS spokesperson and head of media section. He was also promoted to the rank of Colonel alongside 11 other officers at a specially arranged function in Mookgophong.
“These new ranks should not make you think that you have arrived at your destination. You must instead be propelled to do more in serving the people of South Africa in general and Limpopo province in particular,” said General Ledwaba.
A proud Colonel Ngoepe has attributed his honour to hard work and passion for his job.
“First of all, to me, it’s a great recognition by the SAPS because when I joined the police I had only one passion: to protect my community. I did not have this thing in mind to say one day I can be promoted. What I wanted to see were our communities being safe at all times.
I always make sure whatever I do I do it to the best of my ability, because you will understand that when do anything with passion, you don’t look for anything like incentives and so forth, because I wanted to be a police officer when I was still in school,” he says.
Unlike many cops who ended up with SAPS by default, a career as a cop had been Colonel Ngoepe’s dream since he was a teenager.
“I remember, in most incidences where there were school activities including dramas, I was always chosen to act as a police officer. Now that thing also added on my intention to be a police officer, that’s where I am now.”
As provincial spokesperson, Colonel Ngoepe is one of four section heads reporting to Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo, who is the Head of Communication, Marketing and Corporate Services for the SAPS in Limpopo.
It’s been a long journey for the career police officer, who hails from Taueatswala village in Steiloop, Waterberg district. It is a culmination of a successful police career which started in Bolobedu in 1985, when he joined the SAPS as a fresh recruit from college.
It was not long before the young detective impressed his bosses with his clinical approach and attention to details, which sent many notorious criminals to jail.
Within five years, he had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. After a successful 10 year career as a detective, coupled with an impressive track record, Colonel Ngoepe moved to the communications unit of the SAPS, as a communications officer for the Bolobedu police station.
“I started as a communication officer of the station in Bolobedu, and then I moved to Giyani when I was the communication officer for the former Mopani area where I was communicating on behalf of 20 police stations, then from there I moved to Tzaneen where I worked as a cluster officer commanding seven police stations.”
Even in his new role as the mouth piece of the SAPS in the area, he still excelled. He has been a SAPS communication officer for the past 23 years excluding the 10 years under his belt as a top detective. But what has made him to be as successful a police media officer as he was a detective.
“I always make sure I am available for the journalists, because my understanding is that the journalists are the ears and mouths of our communities. And I am here to serve our communities, and if I am not available to the journalists it’s equal to being at a wrong place,” says Colonel Ngoepe.
As for the aspirant communicators, Colonel Ngoepe’s message is simple.
“To become a good communication officer you must be passionate. You must be available 24/7. Whatever journalists want you must be there, so that at the end of the day, they do not write unconfirmed incidents. Some of them you find that tomorrow they are having serious complications. So you will be a useless person.”
Despite his accolades, Colonel Ngoepe says his 33-year uninterrupted service in the SAPS is not about to end.
If anything, he says he is determined to make sure his future in the police service looks exactly like his past: one of hard work, passion and dedication.