Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula arrive at the SAPS memorial site in Pretoria for the annual commemoration day. Photo: ANA/Jonisayi Maromo

Pretoria - Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Sunday urged members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to constantly work on improving their skills and efficiency.

"You must improve, including your shooting, you must not miss. You must come and see me when I shoot, I don't miss. I shoot straight and I shoot very, very fast. I can shoot and crawl at the same time. You must be alive, don't leave the task of the best cops to the task force. All of you must be alert. Criminals are brutal. They take our beloved ones," Mbalula said at the annual SAPS national commemoration for slain officers in Pretoria.

During the sombre event, family members of the dead officers, senior police officials, and government officials laid wreaths as they paid special tribute to the “fallen heroes and heroines” who died between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017. The SAPS said 40 officers died in that period.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the event in his capacity as acting president. Several family members of slain officers, including young children, were escorted to their seats by members of the SAPS chaplain service on Sunday morning. 

In his address to the families, Mbalula said criminals continued to murder SAPS officers. "You can't tell me police officers must die and not be protected by the law. The law protects police officers. We are not promoting a violent nation, Deputy President [Ramaphosa]. We are saying dangerous criminals must be dealt with accordingly and must be met with equal power in relation to dangerous weapons they carry," he said.

The police officers who had died on duty were heroes and heroines of South Africa. Mbalula also had a message for criminals: "Wherever they are, they must know we are coming and we will find them. We will clean them out in the streets, and we will smoke them out in their holes. We will fight crime with the ferocity of a cornered bull and the agility of a cat with an uncompromising spirit," Mbalula said.
African News Agency