Durban - A routine patrol following a community tip-off turned nightmarish for a young police officer after he was struck in the head during a shoot-out.
Constable Simphiwe Sikha-khane, 26, of Mount Royal, Phoenix, said that in the face of death and a hail of gunfire, all he could think of was his 3-year-old son.
“All I was worried about was seeing him again and telling him I loved him.
“I thought: ‘I’m going to die now and my child is going to grow up without me,’” he told the Daily News on Tuesday.
Sikhakhane said the police had received a tip-off from residents in the area around Bantubahle Road at about 9.30am. They had seen a suspicious-looking white Hyundai i20 with four occupants inside, possibly carrying firearms, he said.
“The car had GP (Gauteng) number plates. Upon closer inspection, we saw that they had been carrying rifles,” said Sikhakhane, who is a member of the SAPS tracing team in KwaMashu.
The policeman of four years said he was with one other police officer, so they called the SAPS radio controller to send back-up.
It was at this point that he noticed a silver Toyota Corolla to the left of their patrol car.
“It was one of those older models with a cockroach shape. It had tinted windows, like the i20.
“It just stopped there, with its five occupants, near the other car (i20).”
He said that when the drivers of the vehicles noticed the police nearby, they tried to speed off.
“I was trying to remember the registration so I could check and only found out later that the Toyota had been hijacked in Chatsworth last Thursday.”
He said he believed that when the occupants of the first car had seen the police, they had radioed for their own back-up.
“When they saw that we were giving chase and were not willing to give up, they began shooting at us with their AK-47 rifles. I can’t even count how many shots were fired, but I know there were many of them.”
He added that he saw the cartridges on the ground, which confirmed the weapon used. He returned gunfire but stopped when he felt a burning sensation in his head.
“What can I say? I got a big fright. I thought I was going to die there.”
He said that soon after the incident he was taken to Umhlanga Hospital, from where he was discharged later in the day.
“They gave me lots of drugs for the pain. I went to sleep on Tuesday afternoon and only woke up today,” he said.
He added that the pain had since subsided, but he would go to the hospital for a check-up on Monday.
“From there, I will know when I can return to work. I feel ready now, though,” he said.
Sikhakhane was shot in the chest last year, but he had been wearing a bulletproof vest so escaped injury.
“This is our job. There is always danger, but we try our best.”
He said he had given his family a scare, and they were still worried about him.
“I am the only brother with five sisters, so they have been phoning non-stop. Fortunately, I’m okay.”
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed the incident.
He said police from the KwaMashu tracing team had received information of a hijacked vehicle.
“The hijackers began shooting at the police. A bullet grazed a policeman’s head. He is reported to be in a stable condition,” Naicker said.
A case of attempted murder was opened for investigation by the KwaMashu SAPS.
No arrests have been made.