The former Lansdowne police chief, Brigadier Lavona Januari, known to all as “Mums”, has died of Covid-19.
Brigadier Januari, 59, started her career in the police force as a clerk at Elsies River police station in 1981. After becoming a police constable, she worked briefly at Mitchell’s Plain police station before being transferred back to Elsies River. In 1992, she moved to Athlone police station where she worked her way up to Vispol commander, and in 2006 she became the station’s first female station commander.
Manenberg police spokesman Captain Ian Bennett, who worked with her at Athlone, described her as a hard worker and a strict leader who didn’t mind leading a team of men and heading the crime prevention unit.
She had been well respected by her colleagues and was a mother figure to tall, Captain Bennett said.
In 2010 she became the station commander at Lansdowne police station, where she worked for four years and became the champion of the Women’s Network, a division of the police force that focuses on preventing crimes against women and children.
In 2014, she transferred to Oudtshoorn police station where she received the station commander of the year award multiple times.
Bigadier Januari was hospitalised on Tuesday July 7 and remained in an induced coma for 56 days until her death on Sunday September 6.
She is survived by her husband, who is also a police officer, two children, and three grandchildren.
Police officers held a memorial service for her at the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone on Wednesday September 9 and her funeral was held the next day.
Captain Bennett described her as a “very knowledgeable person” who knew how to work with people and took an interest in people working under her.
“She was like a mother figure to us all, and she earned the title ‘Mums’. She ensured that only the best was achieved and that the community was involved in crime prevention strategies.
“She loved music and never stood back for anything. She really changed my career path as she always wanted me to work in social crime and one day I agreed and now I get to work closely with the community doing outreach work and awareness projects.
“She really made people feel worthy and happy in their workspace,” he said.
Her niece, Zelda January, who works at the Bishop Lavis police station as an information officer, said Brigadier Januari had been more like a mother to her than an aunt.
“She planned everything, and she wanted no hiccups.
“She never allowed anyone to say they couldn’t do something without trying. She was very loving but strict and many people called her ‘aunty’. We would often go on holidays with the entire family every year, the last was to Sun City last year.
“I will always remember those trips. We will miss her dearly.”