Police constable Xolisa Banga, whowas killed by robbers after they demanded her service weapon. Picture: Handout

Cape Town -

The Western Cape had the highest number of murders of police officers last year, mostly because criminals wanted their service firearms.

This emerged during the sentencing procedure of four men who killed police officer Constable Xolisa Banga, 36, in March 2012, while she was on her way to work at Philippi police station.

Abongile Damente, 17 at the time of the shooting, brothers Onke and Odwa Mtwalo, and Mandilakhe Mbali were convicted of her murder.

Damente was also convicted of the attempted murder of a passer-by.

On Tuesday, senior State prosecutor Quinton Appels described the events leading to Banga’s death.

He told the Western Cape High Court that Banga had been driving to collect a key for the trauma room at the Philippi police station where she was based.

Shots were fired at the windscreen of her vehicle. Banga stopped and put the vehicle into reverse.

Two men opened the car door and demanded her service pistol before hitting her in the face and swearing at her.

More shots were fired at her before the men fled. Banga died before she reached Groote Schuur Hospital.

Lawyers argued on Tuesday that the men, convicted of murder, attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances, and possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, should not be given life sentences because they were first-time offenders and because of Damente’s youth and the “relative youthfulness” of the others who were 23 or younger.

But Appels said that life imprisonment was the only just sentence.

Earlier, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Barkhuizen said that since 2006, many of the murders of police officers were motivated by the desire for firearms.

Stolen firearms were used in serious and violent crimes, he said.

Barkhuizen, who appealed to the court to impose a harsh sentence, said he kept records of police murders. National police statistics were recorded at the beginning and end of April of each financial year, he said.

Barkhuizen’s statistics showed that in the Western Cape:

- In 2008 six police officers were murdered, three of whom lost their firearms.

- In 2009 seven officers murdered, two of whom were robbed of their service pistols.

- 2010 and 2011 saw one officer killed each year, and both had their firearms stolen.

- In 2012, five police members were murdered; in two cases firearms were taken.

- Nine officers were murdered last year, and four service firearms were stolen.

- So far this year there have been two murders, and in both instances firearms were stolen.

From 2011 to last year, 103 officers were murdered across the country. National statistics showed that by April last year the Western Cape had the highest number of police killings in the country.

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Cape Argus