Maj-Gen Tertius Geldenhuys (7 May 1955 to 14 April 2020)
The South African Police Service mourns the tragic loss of Maj-Gen Tertius Geldenhuys who passed away on 14 April 2020.
Tertius was born in 1955 and matriculated at the Brits High School in 1972. He officially joined the South African Police Force in 1977. However, unofficially he "joined" the police much earlier in his life. His father, who was a station commander, was unaware that the young Tertius would slip out of his bedroom at night to conduct patrol duties with police officials. He was proud to report that he solved his first murder during one of these "undercover" operations. He had discovered the murder weapon, a bicycle spike, at the crime scene and noticed the suspect fleeing on foot from the scene. He alerted the members on duty and the suspect was arrested. The knowledge and experience that he gained even during those early years, gave him a rare understanding and insight into the mindset of police members and the challenges that they face in the execution of their duties.
Tertius left the Police Force in 1981 with the rank of lieutenant to embark on a career as a lecturer in the Department of Criminal and Procedural Law at the University of South Africa (UNISA). In 1993, he obtained his LLD degree with a thesis entitled "The legal protection of information". When he left UNISA at the end of December 1995, he held the position as professor in Criminal Law. During his tenure in the academia, he contributed widely to the development of the law and wrote several research articles that were published in law journals. He was also the author of the book "Introduction to Security Law" (published in 1992) and co-author of the book "Handbook on the Law of Criminal Procedure" (presently published as the 12th edition) which is considered as the leading authority on the Law of Criminal Procedure in South Africa.
Tertius returned to the SAPS with the rank of assistant commissioner in January 1996 as the Head of Legal Services in Management Services. At that stage he was already involved in policy matters of the police and was responsible for the development of the South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995 and overseeing the parliamentary process involving the Act. He was instrumental in the legislative process for the amalgamation of different police forces into the South African Police Service and was also responsible for the development of the legislative framework for the establishment of municipal police services in South Africa in 1998.
His functions not only related to the development, but also the implementation of legislation in the Police. This included the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998, the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000, the Children's Act 38 of 2005, the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008 and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 and section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, a topic about which he was fiercely passionate. He was also responsible for the overseeing of internal directives and national instructions and for the development of the document on crime definitions that is still used as the point of reference for the capturing of offences reported to the police to record crime statistics.
Despite his role and influence on the legislative environment in the police, the area where the passion and knowledge of Maj-Gen Geldenhuys was most visible, was during the presentation of training and lectures to police officials.
The legal knowledge that he gained during his time at UNISA was combined with his experience and understanding of practical policing. Gen Geldenhuys had the unique ability to explain complex legal principles in a manner that any police official, irrespective of his or her rank, position or background, could understand and remember. His lectures were legendary and it was impossible to forget the information and knowledge that he imparted, often by means of exceptionally funny and strikingly truthful examples with which members could identify. He could make any topic come alive with his explanations. He spoke a language of policing that police officials recognised, which connected him to members who viewed Gen Geldenhuys as an authoritative figure and as a result, he was widely respected in the Police.
Maj-Gen Geldenhuys was willing to assist any member, no matter how busy he was or how insignificant a problem was. He generously provided his contact details to members and invited them to contact him directly if they encountered legal challenges in the performance of their duties. The invitation had one condition though: if a member were to call him between 03:00 and 07:00 in the morning, the caller had to be prepared for a few minutes of gibberish as the general would still be waking up. Thereafter he would be ready to assist with sound legal advice. Gen Geldenhuys was a friend to many police officials who needed help and many can attest that he was indeed a man of his word.
Maj-Gen Geldenhuys despised injustice and unfairness - he was a man of integrity and his decisions were guided by his profound faith in God. He especially viewed the plight of victims of domestic violence and children in need of care as pressing issues and would assist many in difficult and dangerous situations. His calling, as a man of God, was to protect the vulnerable in need.
He instilled the belief that respect should be earned and that commanders can never take for granted that their insignia or rank would guarantee respect from their subordinates. He was deeply committed to the duty and responsibility that a police official carries and would fiercely serve and promote the best interests of the police wherever he appeared and participated.
Maj-Gen Tertius Geldenhuys retired from the SAPS in 2015 as the Head of Governance, Policy and Legislation Management in the Division: Legal Services.
His death is a grave loss to the policing community. However, the knowledge and experience that he so generously shared, live on in the police. Many stories and examples that he conveyed to members, continue to be shared among commanders who are now imparting the same knowledge to the next generation of leaders. His trademark "nice try!" still echoes in the corridors of many police premises. This is reminiscent of the footprints that he left in the police and the impression that he made in the hearts and minds of many who had the privilege to have known him.
Brig Marga van Rooyen
Component: Governance, Policy and Legislation Management
Division: Legal and Policy Services