DURBAN - Unions representing police officers said they were alarmed and disturbed after three police officers were shot and killed, and three more wounded, over the weekend across South Africa.
Public Servants Association acting deputy general manager Reuben Maleka said they were mainly concerned about the capacity of the police, their training skills and their resources.
“We’ve been saying all the time, and we called for officers not to be moving in ones or twos (in operations), but there must be at least three at a time or more. This is in order to ensure that they are not outnumbered during any kind of criminal activities, and they are capable and ready for combat,” Maleka said.
“But we have seen that the number of police officers in the country is going down, so we call upon the minister of police, (to ensure) that we have sufficient police officers on the ground, so those police officers at any given time are not outnumbered by the criminals.”
SA Policing Union (Sapu) national spokesperson Lesiba Thobakgale said they were disturbed by the latest police killings and the wounding of police officers.
“This clearly shows you that our criminals do not respect the law, do not respect the lives of law enforcement officers who are here to serve and protect the inhabitants of the republic and also their property,” Thobakgale said.
He said Sapu had been calling for President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare that police killings amounted to treason. Police were not representing themselves, but the interests of the state.
“(So) those found to be perpetrators, and if they are found to be guilty, they need to face a harsh sentence,” Thobakgale added.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union national spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said: “It is a worrying concern for us because we continuously lose a number of police officers in the service and of course, we have a declining service which currently has around 177 000 officers who have to look after a population of more than 60 million.
“Any killing of a police officer definitely has an impact on policing but it also states clearly that criminals have become so brazen that they even undermine the role of the state in ensuring the safety and security of our citizens.”
Mamabolo said with the incoming police commissioner, they were hoping to have a dialogue around how there could be a joint programme with communities in ensuring that police killings are halted.
“Beyond that, as a union, we are going to have a policing indaba that will look into the root causes and challenges that many of our police officers face on a daily basis.”
National police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said that in KwaZulu-Natal, a sergeant attached to the Empangeni Flying Squad was shot and killed on the N2 between Mtubatuba and Empangeni. The incident happened at 7.30am on Sunday when members of the Empangeni Flying Squad spotted a suspicious looking vehicle on the highway.
“When members approached the vehicle, they were met with fire. The 45-year-old member was fatally wounded, while another sustained gunshot wounds,” Mathe said.
“Three suspects were fatally wounded and police have since mobilised resources and various disciplines within the province to apprehend two suspects who fled the scene.”
Mathe said that in Gauteng, a 45-year-old sergeant attached to the crime intelligence office at the Reiger Park police station was shot and killed on Saturday afternoon while following up on information on a murder case at the Joe Slovo Hostel.
“While patrolling the area in his state vehicle, the member was shot multiple times by a group of unknown gunmen. The member, who was also disarmed of his state firearm, sadly succumbed to his injuries on the scene,” Mathe said.
Also in Gauteng, an officer attached to the Eldorado Park police station was shot and wounded while attending to a complaint at an identified address in Freedom Park just after midnight on Sunday morning.
“Gauteng police have since mobilised all resources in a bid to apprehend those responsible for both incidents,” Mathe said.
She said that in Mpumalanga, a 37-year-old sergeant attached to the Kabokweni Visible Policing Unit was killed during a shootout with robbers in the Kabokweni policing precinct on Friday.
An off-duty police officer was also shot and wounded in Umlazi during an attempted robbery on Friday night.
Mathe added that the SAPS management called for communities to actively join the fight against crime – to end the scourge of attacks against police and killings.