… Inspires with distinguished policing career
IN 1996, Deputy Commissioner Amalia Gawanas (AG) became the first woman to join the Namibian Police Traffic Law Enforcement Division. After years of serving in various positions and ranks, she now heads the division and leads a workforce of 486 personnel in 44 units across the country.
In an interview with Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN), Gawanas spoke passionately of her work ethic, her commitment to the division and her devotion to her family.
She also spoke in detail about her childhood dreams of becoming a member of the force, because of her fascination with the uniform and the swift response times of police officers.
MN: Give us a snapshot of who you are.
AG: Amalia is a Nama girl, born at a farm called Onkombo West, situated some few kilometres on the Hosea Kutako International Airport road. I was raised in Windhoek, where I started primary school at A.I. Steenkamp, and then Jan Jonker Secondary School, which I attended until Grade 9. I then went to a boarding school to gain confidence and be independent.
I later joined Cornelius Goreseb High School, where I completed my matric. After school, I joined the Namibian police in 1990, as a young vibrant woman, full of energy.
I got married in 1994, and had two beautiful daughters. I divorced in 2007, but continued to look after my parents and my children. Although my dad passed on in 2002, my mom is alive, and she is a pillar of strength.
I went on two peacekeeping missions, where I represented Namibia, namely the Integrated Mission of Timor-Leste (UNMIT 2008-2009) and the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID 2013-2015).
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing.
AG: I was brought up by my mom and late stepfather. Although we were poor, I grew up in a house full of love, peace and harmony, with my three siblings. My mom is a very strict woman, but also humble and humorous. There was no discrimination; household chores were assigned equally. This empowered and strengthened our qualities that helped us to be independent. It’s those skills that resulted in my strong leadership and independent abilities. The best lesson mom taught us was to be humble and prayerful.
MN: What triggered your interest in policing?
AG: Discipline in my early childhood triggered me to join the Namibian Police Force. I also admired the force’s uniforms, how officers conducted themselves during their duties, and the manner in which police vehicles operated in the locations, with blue lights and sirens, while always being on time. Police officers during that time were always neat and properly dressed, which prompted me to join the force.
MN: Briefly tell us about your career at Nampol, in terms of training and studies that led you to your current position?
AG: I joined The South West Africa Police Force on 10 January 1990, before independence, and we were later integrated into the Namibian Police Force on 31 March 1990. During the integration period, I was deployed to Mariental, and I was later transferred to the Katutura Police Station in Windhoek. After basic training in 1990, I was redeployed to the Windhoek Police Station, for policing. I mastered the charge office duties and was assigned as a Charge Office Sergeant.
I worked in various positions and rank capacities, until early August 1996, when I was redeployed to the Traffic Law Enforcement Division, under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Du Toit, as the first woman in the division. During that period, my supervisor played a very significant role in my life. As the secretary to the Chief Traffic Coordinator, I learned every aspect of the division, ranging from administrative duties to operational policies. I underwent traffic training in 1999, and I have since been attached to operational traffic policing.
I hold a Diploma in Traffic, a Higher Certificate in Traffic Management, and I’m currently pursuing a Bachelor in Traffic Management at the Southern Business School, which I will obtain at the end of November.
MN: Tell us about the traffic division and what role does it play in society?
AG: The division was established in 1990, with only 56 traffic officers, mainly from the previous provincial traffic members from the Works and Transport Ministry, who were integrated into the Namibian Police Force. There were only 21 units across the country, with 127 officers, of which five were women. I was the very first woman who joined the traffic division in 1996. The Division currently has 486 members in 44 units across the country, with 384 men and 52 women. Our role is to promote road safety, as well as enforce traffic rules and regulations. We serve the community through continuous efforts to improve road safety and facilitate the safe movement of vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians throughout the country. Prevention activities are an important role. The current vehicle population is about 378 608 and the driver population is 280 975. The ratio of vehicles per traffic officer is 1 to 996, meaning each traffic officer serves roughly 1 000 vehicles, and there is one traffic officer for every 739 drivers. This means that in the near future we should increase our manpower, in order to render quality services to the public. Continuous training, awareness campaigns and traffic education plays an integral part of this division.
MN: Describe a typical week of work for you. What exactly do you do?
AG: I always follow my daily diary, which includes meetings, educational programmes on the media and the coordination of programmes and activities with stakeholders, as well as regional traffic coordinators. I plan activities for school holidays, the festive season, the Easter holidays, Heroes’ Day activities, trade fairs, VVIP escorts, and those of abnormal vehicles, as well as escorts for street processions on public roads. I also closely coordinate with other law enforcement agencies in the country. I also advise Inspector- General Sebastian Ndeitunga, regarding traffic-related matters, and I serve on different boards related to road safety. I also compile accident data and submit to the inspector-general’s office. I also make recommendations, with regard to possible law amendments, to improve road safety.
MN: What unique challenges and rewards come from working in traffic law enforcement?
AG: Challenges include the increase of road traffic accidents, as a result of bad driving behaviour and excessive speeding, as well as insufficient human and technical resources for adequate and appropriate deployments along the national roads. Lack of capacity to mitigate the impact and consequences of road accidents and trauma, and weak adherence to the values and ethics of professional conduct, expected from traffic officers, are also challenges.
The rewards are the promotions to all dedicated officers, as well as training which capacitates the members at all levels.The other part is the passion of being a traffic officer. My blood pumps faster, whenever I am tasked with work, especially when I am in the field. It gives me pleasure in what I do. Therefore, I will retire as a traffic officer.
MN: What are the tools of the trade that you use the most? What is your favourite gadget?
AG: The tools include the Criminal Procedure Act (Act 51 of 1977), the Road Traffic and Transport Act and Regulations (Act 22/1999) and the Road Transport Act (Act 74 of 1977), amongst others. My favourite gadgets include breath analysers and speed measurement apparatus.
MN: How do you juggle your role as a professional and a family woman?
AG: To be honest, I neglect my family, because my work requires a lot of time especially during the holidays. The girls completed their respective studies, one in finance and the other one in Somatology. I also adopted my late brother’s two children, a boy and girl, who are very close to me. The boy is more into IT and the girl is a fire fighter. We are like sisters and the boy is the head of the family. I thank the Almighty God for his blessings to have such wonderful, intelligent people around me, who always strive to give their best in life.
MN: What advice do you have for prospective students, who are thinking of a career in traffic law enforcement?
AG: One interesting thing of being a traffic officer is that it’s like reading the Bible. To understand the trend, you need to go deeper into the field, in order to understand and operate effectively. This means that the more you read the Bible and meditate on the word, and search for the verses; you become addicted to live in the word. The more you work as a traffic officer, the more you create passion for the career. I encourage those who want to become traffic officers to do so, because you can graduate in different fields of expertise, such as accident reconstructions, traffic management, road traffic safety consulting and legal aspects, amongst others.
MN: What do you do for a little fun?
AG: I enjoyed playing netball at primary school and it remains my favourite sport. I currently have a netball team, which is for those above 40 years of age, and we play for fun, especially during campaigns, such as the Good Morning Shows on Radio Damara/ Nama, which has been an annual activity since 2012. Since the inception of this tournament, we only lost once. We are now preparing for that very annual activity that will start in September in Tsumeb. My other interests are travelling, gymming, athletics, tennis, gospel singing and reading the Bible.
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