KNYSNA NEWS - After nearly a year without a permanent leader at the helm, Knysna Police Station has welcomed a new station commander in the form of a long-standing servant in the SA Police Service, Colonel Francois de Wet.
On 31 March 2020, the previous Knysna Police Station commander, Colonel Atwell Metu, went into retirement after seven years of running the station. In the 11 months since his departure, leadership responsibilities were shared between Head of Visible Policing Colonel Patrick Gogwana and Branch Commander of Detective Services Colonel Siddique Khan.
On 1 March, a new era was ushered in for the station as Colonel Francois de Wet took charge. He has nearly 35 years of experience in the Saps.
A family man with two sons, De Wet (55) is a born-and-bred Kimberley native, completing his schooling in the Northern Cape town in 1983. Thereafter he attended the Pretoria Police Training Academy for two years before he was officially sworn in to the police on 26 June 1986 and posted to Cape Town.
Three years later he began what would be a 32-year tenure in the Overberg Region where he would be deployed at various police stations, serving as Lieutenant-Colonel and station commander in Hermanus, Kleinmond, and briefly in Caledon. In 2016 he was transferred to the Visible Policing Component at the Overberg Cluster, where he worked until his recent promotion to the rank of Colonel to serve as the new station commander in Knysna.
De Wet formally began in his new position on 1 March and says he's feeling right at home already.
"There isn't much difference when you get transferred from a coastal town to another coastal town. The stations are pretty much the same, so after about three days it felt like I've been here for three months," he told KPH. Within the first week, on 5 March, he had to handle his first protest and closure of the N2 at Nekkies.
"I engaged with the perpetrators, built a relationship with them, and we were able to resolve the conflict," he said.
The protests at Nekkies constitutes part of a larger challenge of communication, according to De Wet, who feels that efficient interaction could lead to fewer shutdowns. "I would like to establish a mediation group that can communicate with these individuals to avoid future conflict, because we need to keep the N2 open at all times," he said. He is also hard at work on the aspect of communication with the communities under his jurisdiction.
He has already met with various neighbourhood watches from across the Greater Knysna area, as well as the mayor and municipal manager, to improve communication with the municipality.
De Wet acknowledged that he has received numerous complaints from residents regarding the satellite station in Sedgefield, adding that he will be working hard to rectify the situation. While De Wet is aware of various challenges in Knysna such as vagrants and drugs, he admits that arguably the biggest challenge he will face is the sheer diversity of the communities in and around Knysna. "All the different groups within all of these communities all have their own specific needs and expectations, and that poses a challenge," he said.
But at the end of the day Knysna's new station commander is not afraid to do what needs to be done. "If I have to step on some toes to fix certain things, then I will certainly do so," he said.
Well aware of past allegations of corruption against members of the local police force, De Wet will not stand for anything of the sort under his command. "I will not tolerate any of it. If I get wind of any corruption in my station then I will be the first officer to make that arrest."
All in all, De Wet seems to be gearing up and ready to tackle whatever challenges lie in wait for him in Knysna.
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