Rise in cop killings condemned

Cabinet has expressed its alarm at the steady rise in the number of police officers killed by criminal elements, government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said on Thursday.

Briefing the media following the executive’s regular Wednesday fortnightly meeting, he said the Cabinet had issued a stern warning that any person found guilty of such criminal behaviour would be dealt with by the full might of the law.

“Cabinet also calls on all South Africans to contribute towards building a safer and more secure society by partnering with the police and reporting any criminal activity,” he said.

Earlier this week, the South African Human Rights Commission condemned the killing of police officers in the line of duty, saying it undermined the proper functioning of the criminal justice system.

“A proper functioning criminal justice system is one of the key requirements in the protection of human rights and the stability of the country’s democracy,” said commission spokesperson Vincent Moaga.

This year alone, reports indicate an increase in the number of slain officers, with the number standing at 32 dead since January.

Other statistics show that 109 police officers were killed between 2008 and 2009, while 110 were killed between 2009 and 2010.

On Sunday, two police officers, Warrant Officer Gurswin Matthee and Constable Cannon Cloete, were killed while attending to a crime call in Kraaifontein in the Western Cape. Three days earlier, Captain Sydney Bongani Hlengwa and Constable Zamikhaya Patrick Hlangulela from Creighton in Durban were killed during a raid.

National crisis
Speaking after the latest killings, police National Commissioner General Bheki Cele said the escalating number of police officers being killed in the line of duty was a national crisis.

“This is indeed a crisis. The rate at which our officers are being callously gunned down is extremely alarming,” he said.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the police ministry would ensure those responsible for killing police would be punished accordingly.

“As the South African Police Service [SAPS] we are a family, and when one of us loses his or her life as cowardly as it has happened it pains all of us.

“We, however, urge our members to continue in fighting crime fearlessly all within the framework of the law.
This is a people’s war and in the end the people shall win this war.”

Mthethwa said circumstances wherein police members lost their lives, particularly being shot at by heartless criminals, had now reached unacceptable levels.

“These dedicated members lose their lives while protecting the nation. We shall never accept nor allow this to continue because a killing of a single police officer robs the nation.

“No amount of punishment to the scoundrels who murder our police can soften our hearts to accept these evil acts. We shall not allow a few criminals to murder our law enforcement officers, who in the first place lose their lives while protecting society,” Mthethwa said.

‘Totally unacceptable’
The South African Police Union (Sapu) said the killings were “totally unacceptable and can never be tolerated”. It called for an urgent national summit on the matter.

“The latest incidents in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal make it beyond any doubt that this summit should be held within the shortest possible time,” said Sapu general secretary Oscar Skommere. “The summit would allow stakeholders to come up with strategies and policies to curb these senseless killings now. Sapu would also like to propose the introduction of tough legislation to curb these killings.

“We would like suspects in all police attack-related cases to be denied bail and those ultimately found guilty to be given lengthy prison terms.”

Skommere said Sapu would seek an urgent meeting with Mthethwa, with the intent to organise the summit.—Sapa

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