Durban - Four South African police officers, including a Bluff couple, have died in apparent domestic violence-related circumstances since Sunday, leaving their colleagues in shock.
Questions are now being asked about whether police authorities should be conducting regular psychological debriefing of members to ensure they are sufficiently mentally stable to possess a firearm.
On Sunday, Constable Lungiswa Mashalaba, 32, was shot dead, allegedly by her 48-year-old fiancé, Lieutenant-Colonel Sipho Zuma, in Lancelot Road, the Bluff.
Zuma then allegedly turned the gun on himself.
A similar incident occurred in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, on Monday.
“The motive is unknown at this stage,” police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said of the Durban shooting. “Brighton Beach police are investigating a case of murder. An inquest docket was opened in respect of the deceased suspect.”
Zwane this morning confirmed the deceased’s names.
The Daily News has established that Zuma was with the Durban Harbour Police, in the Operational Response Services unit. His fiancée was a detective constable from Wentworth Detective Services.
A neighbour said he heard gunshots and made a report to the police. Police arrived to find their bloodied bodies in the house.
The woman had been shot six times and the man once.
A source said the couple had been in a relationship for some time, but that the woman wanted to end it. Her police colleagues were shocked to hear of her death. They described her as a “beautiful person” who was proud to be a detective.
She was loved by many for being an approachable person, kind and down to earth, yet very friendly, said one colleague, who asked to remain anonymous.
The source said the couple had been renting the house for about six months. Neighbours said the incident left them traumatised.
In the Eastern Cape on Monday, a policeman allegedly shot dead his 33-year-old wife at their home.
Spokesman Colonel Sibongile Soci said the woman was a sergeant at the Uitenhage police station while her husband, a constable, was stationed at a different police station.
“The preliminary investigation indicates that her husband shot her and then shot himself. Both died on the scene,” Soci said.
A police firearm was found at the scene but it was not yet clear if this was the weapon used.
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, the party’s spokeswoman on policing, said last night the two tragedies spoke to many issues.
She said when a police officer died it sent “ripples of horror” through the community and the SAPS as a whole.
Kohler Barnard called for a mandatory regular psychological debriefing to ensure police members were sufficiently mentally stable to possess a firearm.
“A full investigation will now take place but it may well have been a domestic quarrel which spun out of control. Alternatively she may have been followed, and killed during a fight to protect herself,” Kohler Barnard said of the Bluff incident.
Asked about whether police officers should be allowed to carry their state-issue guns home she said if not, it would leave them defenceless.
“To strip them and leave them with no form of defence has been considered over and over,” she said. “Owning a firearm is a massive responsibility, but in a community where members are known to be police, many would be sitting ducks without a firearm,” she said.
One of the groups lobbying for police officers to leave their state firearms in safes at police stations is Gun Free South Africa.
A study into intimate femicide-suicide showed that this was more likely among professional or white-collar workers, mostly employed in the police, military or private security industry, reflecting easy access to guns in these professions as a risk factor, said the organisation’s spokeswoman, Claire Taylor.
“Two-thirds of the perpetrators owned a legal gun, and the authors note that 91.5 percent of these double deaths (intimate femicide-suicide) might have been prevented should gun ownership have been restricted,” Taylor said.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokes-man, Colonel Jay Naicker, scoffed at the idea of making police leave their firearms at the station before going off duty.
The Daily News and Sapa