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SOLLY MAPHUMULO and TSHEPO TSHABALALA
‘ALL GAVE some. Some gave All.” These were national commissioner Riah Phiyega yesterday, quoting the words of a song.
She spoke as hundreds of mourners gathered in Seabe, a village in Mpumalanga, to pay their last respects to the second of two policemen murdered in Marikana last week.
Warrant Officer Sello Lepaaku, 45, and Tsietsi Hendrik Monene died last Monday after they were attacked by a group of striking miners at Lonmin platinum mine.
Phiyega described Lepaaku as a hero and a dedicated officer with integrity.
She said: “This final sending-off ceremony is to honour the warrant officer who gave all. Those who gave their lives in the line of duty are heroes.
“The courage shown during those last few moments of their lives was not an unusual event, but a daily one,” she said.
Lepaaku’s commander described him as a disciplined officer, a hard worker and a quiet person.
North West police commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo and North West Human Settlements and Public Safety MEC Nono Maloyi attended his funeral.
Maloyi lashed out at the media, saying it was inciting people against the police.
Mbombo, who addressed the mourners in a husky voice, said: “I’m hurt. I’m hurt.”
After the funeral procession moved to the nearby cemetery, Phiyega handed a national flag and the policeman’s cap to Lepaaku’s distraught widow, Petunia.
Lepaaku, who joined the police force in 1988, had been working for the Public Order Policing Unit at Phokeng in North West.
Family members, who remained calm throughout the service, could not contain themselves during a moving officer’s salute at the graveyard.
There was a special moment as the police band sang the national anthem, leading to Phiyega and many other police officers shedding tears.
Meanwhile, the cousin of the police officers killed at the Lonmin mine said he was disappointed by the “discretion shown by the commander” who led the police unit during their clashes with the miners.
He said he had been told that some of the miners had tried to lure the police into a trap.
Monene had gashes all over his body. He had two holes in his chest. His face was hacked beyond recognition.
The cousin added: “A policeman who was in the Nyala [that was with Monene’s group] told me he had to fight to keep the door of the vehicle closed because they wanted to come in and kill him too.”
The rest of the support vehicles were 300m to 400m away, he was told, and could not provide immediate assistance.
The divisional commissioner of crime intelligence, Lieutenant-General Fannie Masemola, said he wished he could show the footage of the week-long clashes to everyone so they could understand that the police did all they could have done under the circumstances.
“Of course we are against the taking of lives. But we have to protect the community,” he said.
Monene served in the SAPS for 21 years and leaves behind five children (aged between 12 and 23), his wife, mother, brother, sister and grandson. His wife, who is also a serving police officer, was too traumatised to speak.