For our Women’s Month feature this week, NABEELAH MOHEDEEN speaks to policewoman Constable Christelle van Rooyen, who is known as the “iron woman of Manenberg”.
Christelle Van Rooyen has been with the SAPS Crime Prevention Unit in one of Cape Town’s toughest neighbourhood’s for 11 years, investigating drug cases, arresting dealers and seizing illegal guns.
This police constable has notched up 50 arrests for the first quarter of the year and she raids drug houses and gang hideouts in Manenberg’s mean streets in the course of her duties.
According to Manenberg police spokesman Captain Ian Bennet, Constable Van Rooyen is known as the go-to woman in the community – no job is too big or too small for her.
“It has always been my dream to work to protect the community,” says Constable Van Rooyen. “Even if it is just a small bag of drugs I confiscate – at least they are off the streets. Even if I’ve just helped one person I know I’ve made a difference.”
To her colleagues, she is the “staadmaker” – the one they can depend on to fill in a shift or come in on her day off to help the shift run smoothly.
Constable Van Rooyen says she dreamed since childhood of being a policewoman.
“People walk far to get to work to feed their families, and gangsters think nothing of robbing them. There are children on drugs who are abusing their own mothers for drug money and those who rob and steal just for a packet or two of tik. It is sickening the way things are going.”
She says that as a woman it is important for her to be confident and stand up for herself. Being a police officer, she says, has taught her that.
It’s risky work, she says, but she is prepared to do it if it means she can make a difference in many people’s lives.
Captain Bennett says Constable Van Rooyen helps to keep other officers on their toes, pushing them to match her achievements.
“She doesn’t shy away from anything. She has faced a lot of challenges, and she has seen horrible things in her line of work, but that doesn’t deter her from her job as she continues to keep her community safe.”
Constable Van Rooyen says she feels the effort she puts into her job is worth it when she sees former drug addicts on the road to recovery and making successes of their lives; and when their families thank her for the role she has played in getting their loved ones off drugs.
“It makes me feel proud and grateful that I am able to impact the community positively.”