Durban - The fiancée of the policeman gunned down in a failed heist was inconsolable when KZN MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu, and provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, visited the family at their home outside Pietermaritzburg .
Thembi Ndlovu is the mother of Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi’s two young children and the couple were due to perform the umembeso ceremony on February 15.
Umembeso is a traditional ceremony in which the groom’s family gives the bride’s family gifts to secure the union.
On Wednesay Ndlovu could not bring herself to meet Mchunu and Ngobeni because she was too distraught.
She was helped into a bedroom and could be heard sobbing while family tried in vain to comfort her.
Zondi, 30, was the son of inkosi Nsikayezwe Zondi, the chief of a vast area in Pietermaritzburg.
He was shot dead by a gang of robbers in Richmond on Monday night.
Zondi was one of the first policemen on the scene of the botched cash-in-transit heist in Shepstone Street, along with his brother, who is also a police officer.
His brother escaped unscathed.
He was not at the family home on Wednesday.
A gang of five men, including one of KwaZulu-Natal’s most dangerous criminals, attacked a GS4 security van as it delivered cash to Capitec Bank.
Security guard Izak Phungula was shot dead by the robbers at the ATM.
According to police, Zondi had selflessly charged after the robbers when they fled and cornered the gang at a quarry just outside Richmond.
By this time members of the public order policing unit and the K9 unit had arrived on the scene to back up Zondi and his small crew.
The robbers, armed with AK-47s, opened fire on t police vehicle of Zondi and his colleagues, killing Zondi instantly.
In the hail of gunfire that ensued between the police and robbers, another officer, Pepino Mpanza, was shot several times. He is in a coma in the ICU of a Pietermaritzburg hospital, in a critical condition.
Three robbers, including Themba “Bhokobhoko” – notorious for torturing victims with boiling water – were killed.
The two surviving members of his gang were shot and captured and are under police guard in hospital.
A bystander, whose identity has not been released, was also shot dead in the hail of bullets.
Mchunu and Ngobeni, accompanied by ANC MPL Alpha Shelembe and ANC chief whip in the Msunduzi council, Truman Magubane, conveyed their condolences to the Zondi family and spent time praying with them.
Mchunu said this was a most “unexpected tragedy” and condemned the incident.
“Police in this province are faced with so many challenges. They protect their communities with their lives,” he said. “It is sad that the criminals who kill them come from the very same communities they are protecting.”
Ngobeni assured the family that Zondi had died a hero and revealed that when she had informed national commissioner Riah Phiyega of Zondi’s death, Phiyega had cried.
“This has affected us all. He was part of our family as well, and he was a testament to bravery and courage,” she said.
Ngobeni indicated that Phiyega was expected to attend either Zondi’s funeral, which will be held on Saturday, or his memorial service to be held in Richmond on a date to be arranged.
“It is truly sad that he had to lose his life in the line of duty, but that is the nature of the SAPS. When duty calls, we have to respond,” Ngobeni said.
Inkosi Zondi thanked Mchunu and Ngobeni for their support and said the family was “devastated” by the loss.
“We are struggling to handle the pain,” he said, describing his son as a wonderful man.
“It is sad for me to think that most people take our police members for granted. As hard as it is, we have to come to terms with what has happened,” Zondi said.
“My son died in the line of his duty … a job that he loved and was committed to.”