The thick blue line

“Some of us are fit, but others you’ll always find eating KFC and bunny chows,” says Fikile Mashuku, a 27-year-old officer at Jabulani police station in Soweto.

Taking a breather from the five-hour fitness programme for police officers at Soweto’s Orlando Communal Hall, the trim Mashuku points to the floor to make her point.

It’s as though a plane bound for a wrestlers’ convention has crash-landed in the Serengeti. Techno is pounding through the hall and officers wrapped in Day-Glo Lycra are flapping around like distressed elephants.

For others, the only regimen is a subtle shifting of weight from one foot to the other—and a desperate catching of breath. A policewoman walks by, her bodysuit appearing bewildered by the folds it has to contain.

Obesity is ...
er ... a growing problem in the South African Police Service. The public has long questioned its members’ capacity to chase down criminals.

This week officers in Durban were outpaced by an alleged hijacker who sought refuge in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court. A local newspaper reported a car guard saying: “I think the police could have caught him, but most were too fat.”

Inspector Sipho Twala has held five-hour workouts annually since last year. “We’re trying to motivate police to be fit for 2010, but also past that. We’re getting sportsmen, including Baby Jake Matlala, to talk to them about diet and exercise,” says Twala, who hopes to turn the fitness day into a monthly event.

Kefilwe Lesenyego, an officer from Carletonville, agrees: “I exercise a lot, but I know many colleagues who stop staying fit as soon as they become police officers.” — Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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