Goodbye, Major-General Kapp

Gareth Wilson

HE was born to fight criminals and keep the streets safe and now, after 41 years on the beat, one of Port Elizabeth’s finest cops is packing away his uniform and holstering his gun.

Major-General Johan Kapp, 60, will retire from his position as commander of the Motherwell cluster today.

But the crime buster, who also has a masters degree in public administration, will continue his quest to make South Africa safer.

“I absolutely loved every second of the job. There have been some hard times, but the police is like a second family and we stick together through the good and bad,” he said.

“Even though I am retiring, I intend to still do my bit and have been in contact with various universities to perhaps give lectures or advice on crime combating and policing techniques. I cannot just sit at home, I want to make a difference and the more people I can teach and give guidance to, the better.”

Kapp, who started as a student constable at the then Baakens Street police station in Central in 1971, climbed the ranks over four decades, moving around the province working in various positions. He eventually settled down in Port Elizabeth with his family.

Kapp highlighted some of the memorable cases during his career – including his involvement in a crackdown on cross-border crime, tribal killings near Mount Frere in 2005 and the recent Bluewater Bay tragedy in which six Motherwell rugby players drowned. This excludes the various elite task teams he joined to combat the so-called trio crimes – hijackings, robberies and murders.

In 1996 he was one of several policemen placed at the Lesotho border as part of Operation Charlie.

“Police officers had to camp in the mountains in an attempt to curb cross-border crime.

It was a major success and “many criminals trying to either flee South Africa or come into the country were arrested”.

About nine years later, Kapp found himself in a rural area outside Mount Frere in the Transkei where 10 people had been brutally murdered in a tribal war.

“Me and about 20 other officers personally walked more than 20km to the scene. The settlement was in mountainous terrain so we couldn’t ride there. When we arrived we found 10 bodies scattered between the various huts.

“At the end of the day, we had to march about 100 tribal warriors from opposition tribes to the nearest police station about 20km away.”

Kapp, one of few police bosses who visits crime scenes personally, said he had a hands-on approach and would not instruct anybody else to do something he would not do himself.

“I lead by example. If my members must get up at all hours of the night and day to catch the criminals, then that is what I must also do.

“Every Sunday I phone all my station commanders and get a first- hand report on the weekend’s crime in their areas.”

Before finishing up, Kapp has one more official function – his farewell ceremony at the Feather Market Centre today. Provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Celiwe Binta will speak of Kapp’s service. Bay mayor Zanoxolo Wayile is also expected to attend.

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