Meet Gqeberha’s finest man in blue – Bongani Eric Siyona
‘I chose this profession because I wanted to serve the community with integrity, so that people can trust in us as a public service. I want to transform people’s mindsets about us as the South African Police Service,’ says Warrant Officer Bongani Siyona.
Fifty-year-old Warrant Officer Bongani Siyona is Gqeberha’s finest man in blue, with a heart of gold. Named the overall people’s choice award winner by the Accountability Lab’s Integrity Icons, he attributes it all to his father and his upbringing. “My parents were so humble, yet always willing to help people,” Siyona told Maverick Citizen.
Siyona, the youngest of five children, grew up on a farm called Barkley South just outside Makhanda, in the Eastern Cape. He said his father was a farm labourer on a pineapple farm and his mother a domestic worker. “I was travelling barefoot close to 30km to school in the morning and 30km back, from Sub A to Standard 5.”
“My father earned about R100 a month, and during the June and December school holidays, we would also work on the farm and get paid R15 a month. This is where I got the zeal to work hard and help those that are poor, because the environment I came from on the farm was a very poor background.”
“My father never wanted us to grow up with the hardships he had endured and wanted us to go to school and excel,” said Siyona.
After finishing his tertiary education, Siyona first got a job as a taxi driver, which led him to Gqeberha. After that, he held many other jobs, including sweeper, driver, packer and warehouse supervisor, before he applied for and enrolled at the police college.
“I chose this profession because I wanted to serve the community with integrity, so that people can trust in us as a public service. I want to transform people’s mindsets about us as the South African Police Service,” said Siyona.
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He said that it was while engaging with the community of KwaZakhele during the Covid-19 lockdown, that he realised he had to do more than simply enforce Disaster Management regulations; he also had to include the community in social crime-prevention measures, which led to the introduction of about 200 community patrollers.
Siyona said he partnered with Ubuntu Pathways, an NGO in Zwide, which donated vouchers of almost R1,000 each to the patrollers’ families. He said the NGO also facilitated motorcycling training for 10 patrollers.
Acknowledging that his work as a police officer could sometimes be challenging, Siyona told Maverick Citizen that he stayed in the job because he loved working with and helping people. “It is within my heart to help and transform communities. I love when people come to me and I am able to resolve their problems in a very amicable way. I have the passion and zeal to help people.”
Speaking at the awards ceremony on Friday, 4 November 2022, Siyona said: “Integrity [means] I must be honest to the people coming to the police station; give them feedback of what is happening with their cases; what crime is happening in their areas and what strategies we can bring working with the CPF [community policing forum].”
“As a public servant, when people see you, they must see you reflecting this, because you cannot serve people without it. You need to have self-control [and] self-discipline. [You need to be] a person of your word, because there will be no service delivery without integrity.”
Even when he is not on duty, Siyona keeps busy in his community as an ordained pastor, and with his family managing his wife’s gospel-singing career. He is also a member of the school governing bodies at his children’s schools.
We will publish more profiles in the coming days.