Few surprised at alleged thief, shot dead by police, being an off-duty officer
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Cape Town - A shoot-out between the police and suspected thieves turned deadly, with the added surprise that one of the thieves turned out to be one of their own – a sergeant at the Khayelitsha police station.
The killing of Sergeant Zukile Ngalo, a police officer attached to Khayelitsha’s Tactical Response Team, who was caught red-handed allegedly stealing bricks at a construction site in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha, has exacerbated calls for officers to be vetted.
Ngalo, who died in hospital, was shot by police officers who were patrolling the site yesterday morning.
Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said the officers came across a light delivery vehicle loading bricks at a construction site where a shopping centre is being built.
Potelwa said as they approached the vehicle, four suspects fled. She said police managed to arrest two suspects with the assistance of security guards who were on site.
“As they were busy loading the arrested suspects into the police van, police came under fire, and they also returned fire, and the gunman was hit,” said Potelwa.
She said the gunman (Ngalo) was taken to hospital where he died.
“It later transpired he was an off-duty police officer.”
She said further investigations led the police to the home of the deceased, where a generator stolen in a business robbery in the area was found.
Potelwa said it was also discovered that the firearm used by the deceased to fire at the police was a service pistol registered in his name, and the vehicle used to load bricks at the construction site belonged to him.
Potelwa said the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) was informed.
SA Police Union (Sapu) national spokesperson Lesiba Thobakgale said anyone who shoots at the police, must suffer the consequences.
"If the seargent, as alleged, was with criminals doing criminal activities, then he is one of them. You attack the police, you attack the state, and criminals must fall," said Thobakgale.
Ipid spokesperson Ndileka Cola said Ipid would continue with its investigation.
A criminologist at Stellenbosch University’s political science department, Guy Lamb, said the incident underscored the need for the proper vetting of police officials when they joined the police force.
“This is a problem in the world over, where police are getting involved in criminal activities, and we often see it with militarised and specialised units as well, but it is a common problem among police forces across divisions,” said Lamb.
Khayelitsha Community Policing Forum chairperson Fransina Lukas said it was regrettable that incidents occurred involving police officers.
Lukas said it was incidents like these, where law enforcers were found on the wrong side of the law, that killed trust and confidence in the police service, although it was a fact that not all officers were guilty of such behaviour.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said it was always sad to hear of police officers who were involved in acts of criminality.
“We want to call on the police to look at their vetting processes to ensure that the people who are tasked with protecting us are not the people who we end up needing protection from,” said Fritz.
He thanked the officers on duty who were able to respond to the crime as it was unfolding.
SA Communist Party provincial secretary Benson Ngqentsu said there was nothing new about police involvement in criminality.
Ngqentsu said the incident and many others confirmed the correctness of their call for the independent vetting of all police officers and ultimately a judicial commission of inquiry.
“It is so, because all these incidents demonstrate the extent of the rot within the police and thus in our view we believe that the police basic functions to combat, prevent and investigate crime is heavily compromised. The confidence of our people in our police is terribly eroding, if not eroded,” he said.
The ANC’s provincial spokesperson for community safety, Mesuli Kama, said the story came as a shock to them. He said it exposed that the police service had indeed been infiltrated by rotten elements.
Kama said the allegations of corrupt elements within the police have been left unattended for far too long, and called for an urgent investigation into the matter to get to the bottom of it.