As a child, Constable Kulani Shikhati dreamt of becoming a police officer.
As an adult, she has not only realised her dream but has also become the first woman to join the Tactical Response Team (TRT) in Mpumalanga.
Shikhati, 25, is not only an inspiration to all everyone who knows her but is also an outstanding police officer and a pioneer in her community.
Born and raised in Tzaneen, Limpopo, she is the youngest of five children, including two who are police officers. Her older sister is Constable Charlotte Shikhati, who is stationed at the Ngodwana Police Service and the other sister, Sector Commander Captain Shirley Shikhati, is at the Nelspruit Police Service.
After completing matric at the Bankuna High School in 2004, Shikhati pursued her love for food and obtained a Diploma in Hospitality and Catering from the Vaal Technikon. She then worked as a chef at the Emnotweni Sun Hotel, honing her skills, but soon realised that her real passion lay in policing.
In 2009, finally ready to follow her dream, she enrolled for the South African Police Service (SAPS) Basic Training Course at the Pretoria West College.
An adrenalin junkie, who thrives on challenges, it’s no surprise that her favourite subjects at college were street survival, weaponry and physical training. After completing her degree and then field training at the Nelspruit Police Station, she saw a memo requesting candidates to apply for the pre-selection to the TRT and signed up without hesitation. She was on probation at the time.
A few months later, she was selected to train with the TRT. The unit is called in to handle medium to high security risk needs of various police stations and clusters. They combat crime, restore public order (crowd control), escort dangerous criminals, provide tactical assistance to other units, police sporting events and assist during disaster management.
According to Shikhati, in her line of work fitness is key. Only police members who are mentally and physically fit are chosen. In order to pass the physical test for the unit, candidates had to complete an 8km run in under an hour while wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying a R5 rifle.
The run included jumping over a wall eight times in under a minute, shuttle runs, leopard crawling and pistol shooting.
“To get through the 10-week rigorous training one needed to learn to motivate oneself. I have always been somebody who believes in finishing what I start,” she said.
Even though Shikhati had her moments of weakness, her mental attitude allowed her to remain focused and finish the training.
“I was the only woman and felt I could not relate with my group members, that is when I realised that I needed to have mental strength. My motivating factor was not only the pride of having completed what I had started, knowing that I was the only woman to ever do so was the icing on the cake that pulled me through.”
Her determination also earned her the respect of the male candidates who were part of the training.
"She pulled her weight and shocked the guys. We are very proud to have her in our team. She is a remarkable police officer,” said one of her colleagues Captain Gajeni Ndlovu.
Constable Shikhati said she feels fulfilled in her job.
“I enjoy every second of being in the team. I love my job and I have no regrets for leaving the hospitality industry to pursue my calling. One day I hope to become a commander.”
She urged young women to join the police service and try out for the TRT unit.
“We owe it to ourselves, as women, to challenge ourselves to reach greater heights,” she added.