Tributes are pouring in for Woodstock police spokesman, Warrant Officer Hilton Malila, who died suddenly on Monday morning of a suspected heart attack.
The death of the 46-year-old was a shock to the Woodstock community, who referred to him as the “heart and soul” of the police station.
Warrant Officer Malila was the station’s spokesman for the past 18 years, and had been actively involved in many community projects.
A memorial service will be held today, Thursday January 9, at the Woodstock town hall at 11am.
Youssef Kanouni, chairman of the Woodstock Community Police Forum, said he had lost a brother as he had worked with the officer for many years. “The news of his death was a shock,” he said.
Mr Kanouni described Warrant Officer Malila as a man who had a heart for everyone. He said he was well known and loved throughout the community, even in Salt River and Observatory. He said he had learnt a lot from the officer. “He was very involved with the seniors and was someone who was always there for everyone,” he said.
Cedric Thomas, spokesman for U-Watch, said he was devastated by Warrant Officer Malila’s death and the news had only really started to hit him now. The two had worked together for about 18 years, while Mr Thomas had served on the community police forum and as ward councillor. “He was ‘Mr Woodstock SAPS’ and will be missed. He was so close to the community and they are at a loss,” he said.
Mr Thomas said Warrant Officer Malila would be remembered most for his annual end-of-year seniors’ party. “He started with the seniors’ party more than 15 years ago and played a big role in making sure it was a successful event,” he said.
Mr Thomas described Warrant Officer Malila as a humorous man but said he was a good disciplinarian, when he needed to be.
His former colleague Candice Barnard, who worked with Warrant Officer Malila from 2010 to 2015, said he had taught her the ropes. “We had a good working relationship. He had a way of doing things and when he got involved in a project, it was bound to be a success. He taught me how to run and manage projects,” she said.
Ms Barnard said she would fondly remember their drives to work, listening to the Phat Joe Show in the morning and said the officer always had a positive, upbeat spirit, which drew people to him.
Ms Barnard said she had lost a brother and would miss him dearly. “He was compassionate and had a heart for the community. The station will never be the same – he was the heart and soul of it,” she said.
Edgar Madell , spokesman for Junction Rovers, said Warrant Officer Malila would be missed at the football club which he had been a part of for many years.
Mr Madell said Warrant Officer Malila started out in the junior ranks where he played under-14 to under-18 and later joined the senior ranks and had played in the over-35 team for about six years. “He was our goalkeeper and may not have had the body of his younger brother David (also a goalkeeper at our club), but he was just as brilliant between the poles . He became one of our strongest members and was always willing to lend a hand. He was very passionate about our youth and would arrange free bus transport for their end-of-year presentations as well as seeking donations when needed,” he said.
Mr Madell said Warrant Officer Malila would be remembered for his jokes on and off the field and always had the ability to lift the mood in the changing room before or after the games, whether they had won or lost . “He would always keep our club’s name at heart and attended most of our functions as a member. The messages of condolences received from all the clubs and our club reflects how much he was loved and respected as a soccer player and we are sure his spirit will forever live on. Hilton Malila, our friend, fellow Junction Rovers FC family member, you will be missed. May your soul rest in peace.”
Warrant Officer Malila leaves behind a wife, three children and three grandchildren.
His funeral will take place on Saturday January 11, at the Sharon Assembly of God Church, Joan Street, Valhalla Park at 9am.