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The grieving family of two slain Kraaifontein police officers joined local residents and police in a peace march through the streets of Wallacedene on Saturday, calling for an end to all “evil deeds”.
Speakers at the peace rally in support of Warrant Officer Gershwin Matthee and Student Constable Cannon Cloete called for a return of the death penalty for police killers, the removal of all illegal and legal guns from communities and a pledge for continued community support in the ongoing fight against crime.
Matthee, 39, and Cloete, 23, were gunned down in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein, last month while responding to a domestic violence call. Police suspect that the officers were targeted by a syndicate on the hunt for police firearms.
Addressing the crowd, Kraaifontein police station commissioner Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk said the community had lost two heroes the day that Matthee and Cloete were killed.
Kraaifontein Community Policing Forum chairman Clamen Solomons called for a return of the death penalty against police killers. “If you kill a policeman, at least then the State should bring back the death penalty. An attack on a policeman is an attack on the State, and the death penalty will send out a strong message to criminals,” Solomons said.
Father John Oliver, from Gun Free South Africa, called for the removal of all guns from communities. “If that gun had not been available, Warrant Officer Matthee and Student Constable Cloete would still be talking to us today.
“The supply of arms must be stemmed and the need for arms must be removed.
“May the sacrifice of these two precious lives at the very least strengthen our resolve – not just to pray for peace, or march for peace, but to take the first step towards peace by the removal of guns from our community,” he said.
It was an emotional scene when family members saw for the first time the exact spot where the two were ambushed and killed, with one marcher chanting:
“We won’t forget, we won’t back down. Stop these cop killers.”
With tears rolling down her face, Matthee’s widow Rochelle said it was the first time the family had been to the scene.
Cloete’s grandmother Christine, 69, said the peace march was a kind gesture by the police. “We are all still grieving. Cannon’s grandfather, Pieter, turned 75 at the beginning of this month and it was not much of a celebration.”
She said Cloete’s four-month-old son Tyler was the “little light” of the family.
Since the fatal shooting, police have arrested eight suspects – two for murder and six for the illegal possession of firearms.