Captain Thomson Bvuma has dedicated his life to putting some of the country’s most violent malefactors behind bars – and making sure they stay there.
In 2016, Bvuma arrested a gang of nine men who had raped and robbed at least 11 women, killing one, in Tshepisong, Kagiso.
Last month, the men were found guilty of more than 50 crimes, including rape, murder, kidnapping and robbery. Last week, they were sentenced to life in prison.
It is the feather in his 35-year-long career cap, says Bvuma – and the case the soft-spoken father-of-four is most proud of.
“All of them, without exception, were serial rapists. And all of them, without exception, got life,” he adds.
Bvuma worked around the clock for four years on the complex case, which involved painstakingly investigating every charge levelled against each of the nine men.
“I even remember taking the docket to the prosecutor at one stage and she told me, ‘Captain Bvuma, you will go on pension with this case because it is going to take a long time’,” he laughs, “but it was worth it in the end”.
Bvuma, who is still two years shy of retirement, says what matters most is that the community feels justice has been served.
“They were terrorised by these men,” he says, “They are thrilled with the outcome.”
Last year, Bvuma was awarded the National Commissioner’s Award for his work to secure a total of 480 years in prison for a man who was found to have raped more than a dozen women.
It was an honour, he says, and it felt good to be recognised.
“But the most important recognition is the community’s. As the police, we are not here to serve ourselves but rather to serve the public out there.”
Bvuma spends his days hunting down serial rapists, along with other dangerous offenders, and investigating some of the most vicious crimes perpetrated against women and children.
And he says he would not have it any other way. This is his calling, he explains, and in a country like South Africa – where gender-based violence is rife – it is an important one.
That said, the job has taken a toll on Bvuma’s family and on him.
“When you leave in the morning, your family does not know if you will be coming home. And when you do, they are just so happy that you are alive,” he says.
While in the field, Bvuma often finds himself thinking: “If this can happen to somebody else, it can happen to me or to my kids.
“It has made me very overprotective, especially of my daughter, and there are times when it gets me down,” he says. “But it is rewarding too, when you can tell someone who has been raped that you have arrested her rapist.”
Being a policeman has shaped Bvuma into the man he is today, he says.
“The police have taught me discipline. They have also taught me to appreciate life because you can get shot at any given moment,” he says.
But he’s looking forward to hanging his hat up when the time comes.
Asked how he intends to spend his twilight years, Bvuma thinks for a moment and then says simply: “Resting”.
He hopes to enjoy more time with his wife and children – time he and they have earned after sacrificing so much for others. Until then, though, Bvuma remains focused on the task at hand: putting away the bad guys.