The wife of a member of an elite police team has spoken of her horror at seeing him gunned down while trying to help during a break-in at a neighbour’s property near Ladysmith.
Constable Sithembiso Sifiso Yende, 38, was off duty when he was shot twice on Saturday night. One of the three assailants then picked up the fallen policeman’s service pistol and fired another bullet into him.
“And then they just walked away, calm and didn’t even run,” his distraught wife, Bongekile Ximba, 36, told the Daily News on Monday.
Yende, a member of the SAPS Tactical Response Team (TRT), was shot in the chest and neck, and died at the scene in Ezakheni B Section. His firearm was stolen.
Police searching for suspects later that night came under fire from unknown persons, Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu said in a statement. However, reports that a few civilians were injured during the shooting could not be confirmed.
Ximba said she and her family were having dinner at about 10pm on Saturday when they heard the neighbour’s cry for help. Yende immediately went to investigate, but returned moments later for his keys and service pistol.
Ximba said she followed him and saw the neighbour standing by her gate, screaming that there were people breaking into her sister’s house.
Her husband went straight to three men, one of whom had a gun, who were standing by the neighbour’s broken door, she said.
“He asked them what they were doing there and told them to go away. I had started crying and told my husband to come back.”
Ximba said one of the men claimed they were sorry to have broken the door.
“I got scared because they just didn’t run or walk away. My husband was a TRT and people knew that. The one who had a gun aggressively said, ‘hey you’. He then shot at my husband twice, and I saw him collapsing.”
Ximba said one of the men picked up Yende’s gun and fired. “He shot him once and I just saw my husband caught in the muzzle flash.”
At the time, she had not realised that her husband had died, she said, adding that police and an ambulance had arrived quickly.
“They took out a stretcher from the ambulance and then put it back without his body after a moment. They asked who he was staying with and asked to speak with me in private. I just realised he was already gone,” Ximba said.
The house the men broke into was a shebeen, she said.
Mchunu said his department found the increasing number of attacks on policemen “very disturbing and totally unacceptable”.
“The job of police officers is to provide a safe and secure environment for citizens of the country and as such they should be treated with respect and admiration.
“These are men and women who have sacrificed their lives to serve the community to the best of their ability.”
Mchunu condemned the murder and extended his condolences to Yende’s family.
“We can assure them that members of the police will work around the clock to ensure that those who are responsible for this murder are brought to book as soon as possible.”
Ladysmith police are investigating one murder and two cases of attempted murder.
Provincial police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed that no arrests had been made.
Yende is survived by his wife and four children, two from his marriage with Ximba.