Pacing up and down in her office, explaining to a caller on the phone how the incarceration process of an under-aged perpetrator works, it goes without saying that the City Police Services (CPS)’s spokesperson, Helena Mootseng, has a lot on her plate.
Shortly after ending her phone conversation, she offers her apology for the interruption and straightens her collar, ready to begin with the interview.
“The level of stress in this job is higher than any other profession. It is rewarding, though, to assist in times of crisis and make a difference at the end of the day,” she quips.
Her role in the CPS’s public relations department involves promoting community policing and raising public awareness on crime prevention.
This role has not always placed her in people’s good books because of the ‘tough love’ approach the CPS takes to maintain law and order in the community. Ensuring motorists and passengers are buckled-up, not to mention the recent arrest of motorists with outstanding ticket fines are just but a few examples of why she is not the common criminals’ favourite.
Mootseng rendered this interview on the same day hundreds of motorists were queued-up at the City Police’s head quarters [where she works] to pay their outstanding speeding ticket fines [or face possible arrest].
The same morning, she spoke via the National Broadcaster’s radio station, urging all those with outstanding traffic fines to settle their amounts by the end of business that day or get served with arrest warrants.
But how does she respond to aggressive offenders who resist or attempt to obstruct justice? “They may be bitter and resentful towards the law but we would have done our job,” she states sternly.
Growing up in one of Windhoek’s most insecure neighbourhoods in the heart of Katutura, Mootseng knows what it feels like to feel unsafe in one’s own locality.
The 35-year-old grew up in a household of five siblings; one twin sister and three brothers but she would lose one of her brothers to an epileptic attack in 2008. She is yet to heal from the tragedy. In her view, more public awareness on epilepsy should be raised to prevent deaths.
In future, Mootseng plans to establish a trust fund that will help epileptic victims in honour of her late brother. But for now, helping the city police curb crime remains her number one priority.
“I really want to be an agent of change in the community. I know the issues of drugs, alcohol-abuse and violence stare us in the face. Instead of being part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution,” she says.
Her au-pair travels to Germany where she worked for two years (from 1999 to 2000) were an eye-opener, she admits. She realised there was a different life other people lived other than the one she grew up knowing.
Shortly after her return from Germany, Mootseng worked as a receptionist at a German construction company and later as a cashier for the City of Windhoek.
“While working for the City of Windhoek, I managed to develop myself through the municipality’s study scheme. Through the scheme, I was able to attain a few qualifications,” she submits.
She would use the opportunity to study Office Administration at Dameline College and obtain her national diploma in Media Studies at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN). She is currently studying her LLB through the University of South Africa (Unisa) and a post-graduate executive diploma in Police Management.
“I’ve worked in various departments of the municipality and although residents fail to [sometimes] acknowledge our efforts, I understand the challenges, from a crime investigative point of view, the city’s financial position and how it often goes out of its way to deliver,” Mootseng points out.
Recently, the CPS, under Mootseng’s department, introduced an initiative to promote community policing by engaging various members of the community - from schools, churches, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and activists. The initiative aims to address youth crime within the city and how members of the community can work with the city police to curb crime.
“The public needs to get involved in the concept of community policing to raise itself beyond passiveness. The community has to take the hand of the police, law-enforcements, NGOs and Government towards intolerance against crime and violence,” she urges.
Last year, CPS teamed up with Cosmos Radio to introduce a new concept called the ‘Police Radio Reality Programme’, also called ‘Corps 94’.
“This initiative is a first in Namibia. Through it, radio broadcasting is used to educate and inform listeners about incidences directly from the crime scenes,” she explains, adding, the whole idea is to raise awareness on how people can prevent road accidents.
She also says one of the effective approaches CPS has undertaken in patrolling Windhoek’s residential areas is the introduction of zonal policing: “This means that instead of taking a ‘one-blanket’ approach, we have divided the city into 19 different zones in which we have designated an officer for each area to focus their interventions on those specific zones only. Each zone has its own designated vehicle, depending on the crime trend of each area.”
Notably, the use of CCTV cameras that have been deployed across the city to monitor crime, she adds, have also gone a long way in preventing crime.
Mootseng stresses the relationship between the Namibian Police (Nampol) and CPS is a complimentary one: “As a municipal police service, the CPS compliments Nampol in road safety management and crime prevention. We are also mandated with the enforcement of municipal by-laws. There is a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between us on exactly how that complimentary relationship should be carried out.”
In every city police vehicle, Mootseng states, there must be a Nampol representative deployed to assist the officers in their duties.
According to her, one of the challenges the city police faces is the lack of authority to investigate criminal cases, which would help in speedily resolving them.
Windhoek, as the country’s capital city, Mootseng adds, faces the toughest challenge because of its attraction of local and international visitors. PF
“We have an obligation to protect the City of Windhoek because it is the gateway to our country. We must therefore preserve its image and deal with the enemies of progress who pose a threat to its representation through criminal activities,” she warns.
It is clear from Mootseng’s determination that this agent of change has her priorities in the right places and a passion for what she does. She’s going places! PF