Durban - National police commissioner Riah Phiyega has condemned the killing of three police officers in the province in barely a week as police continue to find themselves under fire.

On Saturday, while preparing to bury slain officer Sergeant Thami “Prince” Zondi, who was gunned down in an exchange of fire with cash-in-transit robbers in Richmond on Monday, it emerged that two officers had been shot and killed near KwaDukuza on Friday night.

The two, both of them constables, were shot by three men after they stopped a suspicious vehicle in which the men were travelling on the R74 on the Hollywood Estate between Maphumulo and Stanger.

Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said four officers travelling in a marked Quantum minibus taxi stopped at the side of the R74 to investigate a suspicious red vehicle.

“Two of them, who were seated in the front of the vehicle, were shot in the head,” said Naicker.

He said that three men had emerged from the bush and allegedly shot the constable and student constable while they were still seated in the police vehicle.

“One of the men got into the police vehicle and wrestled with the third officer for his firearm, while the other officer, seated at the back of the vehicle, then pulled his firearm and shot at the men, who fled into the bushes,” said Naicker.

He said no arrests had been made.

A police source who was at the crime scene, and who could not be named, told the Sunday Tribune that one constable was shot in the back of the head, while the other was shot in the temple.

Phiyega said that being a police officer was a dangerous occupation worldwide.

“These brave men and women find themselves facing society’s most dangerous people every day, and we admittedly lose too many officers in the course of their duties.

“The message that we must send to these criminal elements is that we know we are winning the fight.

“We will pick up the baton from our fallen comrades and continue to meet them head-on,” she said at Zondi’s funeral.

Zondi, the son of a local chief, had been in pursuit of the heavily armed cash-in-transit robbers when they opened fire on his vehicle. He died at the scene. His partner is in a critical condition.

Three robbers were killed in the exchange of fire.

Hundreds of police officers joined a marching procession from his home to a large marquee, walking ahead of his coffin, which had been draped in the national flag.

The officer who had been at Zondi’s side when he was killed was his brother, Sibusiso, who was so overcome by grief that he had to be helped away from the column of officers at the funeral.

In a full military funeral, Zondi was hailed as a hero who had not backed away from danger.

His grief-stricken father, Nkosi Nsikayezwe Zondi, said he had disapproved of his son choosing to become a police officer.

He said that, despite his having tried to dissuade him from joining the police service, his son had always been determined to fight criminals.

In a moving tribute to his son, in which he often gazed at the coffin in front of the podium, Zondi said his son had died in the defence of his country and the execution of his duties.

In her speech, Phiyega said that Zondi’s passing had left a void that would be hard to fill.

“Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi was so unexpectedly snatched away from us in the prime of his life, robbing him of a bright future that lay ahead of him.

“We find solace in the fact that he died doing what he loved so much, and he died fighting for what he believed in,” she said.

Sunday Tribune