CHRIS, THE MOUTH THAT SPEAKS FOR THE COPS
Not a week passes by without the Botswana Police Services speaking to the nation through the media and there is one voice, which has become synonymous with all this. This is the voice of the police spokesman, Assistant Commissioner, Christopher Mbulawa who has been at the helm of the uniformed force communication unit for the past 14 years. The Voice caught up with him last Friday after receiving the Jubilee award from President Seretse Khama Ian Khama for having diligently served the police service, to find out more about him and his job as BPS mouthpiece.
Q. When did you join the Police Force?
I joined the force on October 5 1983 as a constable
Q. Of all the professions, why did you choose this one?
When I was growing up I was a member of the Boy Scouts and I think that was when the interest in uniformed forces started. The real influence however came from the people that I grew up with as most of them later joined the Botswana Defence Force, which I also wanted to join but was discouraged from doing so by my mother. Her disapproval was influenced by the war of liberation in Zimbabwe, which had just ended, and the number of soldiers who had died during the struggle. She therefore believed if I joined the army I would also die.
Q. Besides the influence from your peers then, what did you personally like about the Police force?
I love people and love helping them and joining the force was one of the ways I could actually do that. I must however mention that I nearly lost my dream of being a member of the uniformed forces because of my height. I fell short of the required height by a few centimeters but was saved by my education.
Q. You are the current Police spokesman; can you take us through the journey of how you landed that position?
In 1986 I was sent to do a journalism training course at Radio Botswana and after that was transferred from Gaborone Central to Police Headquarters. In 1990 I was sent to Harare Polytech to do a diploma in Mass Communication and was then appointed police spokesman in 1996. I however continued pursuing my studies in the field and I was one of the students in the first class of Media Studies at the University of Botswana and graduated with degree in 2006.
Q. Besides being the mouthpiece of the police force, what are some of your duties?
I advice the commissioner on media issues and I liaise with the media if we have events, I am also responsible for issuing press statements and being a go-between the police and members of the public. As a public relations person I also have to make sure that the force is always portrayed in good light.
Q. And what do you enjoy most about this job?
I enjoy working with the media because I understand their environment, I know what deadline means to journalists and I always try to make sure that we give them the information that they need as fast as we can.
Now can you tell us about the medal that was awarded to you today (Friday 6 August) by President Khama
I was given the Jubilee award for having diligently served in the police force for more than 25 years and I feel proud and honored to have received the award as it is not automatic that when one has served for more than 25 years he/she receives it.
(According to the rules of the force the award is an honour awarded to a member of the Botswana Police Service who has served at least 25 years in the Police Force and has shown by his conduct that he is worthy of the honour)
Q. You seem to be excited about this award, is this your first medal from the State President?
This is my first one from Preident Khama but I have received one before from the former president, Festus Mogae which was for long service which I got in 2003.
Q. Talking about state presidents, you have served under the country’s three presidents, the current and the two former statesmen, any comments, any memories?
It has been a wonderful journey and I have enjoyed working under the three Presidents. I remember one time when I became former President Masire’s reporter for about two weeks as the media was not allowed to be part of the gathering. I did all the writing of the stories and taking pictures and the videos for both the print and the electronic media.
Q. Do you have regrets in as far as your career is concerned?
Not at all, joining the police force is one of the greatest things that I have ever done and I am happy with how I have progressed in the force.
Q. And what is your ambition, where do you see yourself five years from now?
My ambition is to see public relations practitioners having a body that represents them. I am not talking about those in the public sector but everyone who is in public relations. I believe that if we have a body we would be more respected and credible. And in the Police force I want to continue serving in my current capacity or in whatever capacity comes my way.
Q. What is one thing that you wish members of the public could understand or appreciate about the force?
I wish the public could understand that when we say investigations are continuing in a particular case they will really be undergoing and continuing. The problem is that sometimes people expect cases to be done and concluded within days but that is impossible. When we do our investigations we leave no stone unturned and people should appreciate and understand that we need time to do that so we can come up with valid findings.
Q. Lastly what is your comment on the crime rate in Botswana?
I think crime rate is low in Botswana compared to other countries. We might have our share of crime and criminals but I don’t think it is much of a problem here. Not to sound like I am beating the drum for myself and my colleagues, but I do think we are trying our best to contain crime in the country.
Full names: Christopher Mbulawa
Rank: Assistant Commissioner
Date of birth: July 20 1963
Place of birth: Francistown
Marital status: Married
Children: Two daughters, Buyisile and Nomhle
Holiday destination: Victoria Falls
Car driving: VW Golf estate
Likes: Reading and camping
Favourite pastime: Playing tennis
Book(s) currently reading: Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright and Bush (George) at War by Bob Woodward
Favourite music: Gospel and Traditional
Last time cried: Always helps other people cry and cries a lot when a woman dies and the last time was in 2004 when he lost sister-in- law
Greatest achievement– Marrying his childhood sweetheart in 1991