Questions have been raised after three people were killed in a gun battle with police in rural KwaZulu-Natal. A police officer was also shot in both legs.
Police spokeswoman Captain Nqobile Gwala on Sunday said members of the National Intervention Unit and Tactical Response Team came under fire when they approached the Kubheka homestead in Ngonyameni area, Loskop, on Saturday night.
They had been deployed as part of a crime stabilisation operation and were following up on a tip off.
“On entering the house, police officers were attacked by suspects who opened fire on them. Police retaliated and three suspects were fatally wounded while another three were arrested at the scene,” she said.
Four unlicensed firearms, ammunition and four bulletproof vests were recovered. Last Tuesday police arrested four suspects in possession of four unlicensed firearms which include rifles, pistols and ammunition at the same house, said Gwala.
A family member yesterday told The Mercury that the arrested were the father of the house and his friends, who are taxi bosses in Johannesburg, as were two of the deceased. The third was a 23-year-old cousin, Sthabiso Kubheka, who family members alleged was shot while his hands were secured with a cable tie.
Blessed Gwala, the IFP’s provincial Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison expressed “concern”, over the deaths.
“The IFP demands that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) conducts a thorough investigation into police involvement in the killing… Communities look to the police for protection from criminals and therefore the police leadership must never allow SAPS to deteriorate into criminality."
He said while the IFP called for swift action in apprehending those involved in the two mass murders last week, they did not, “expect members of SAPS to take the law into their own hands”.
Ward councillor Manase Mazibuko, who was called to the house after the shooting, said she saw the cables ties which the family claimed were cut off the deceased after they were shot. This allegation could not be independently confirmed.
Mazibuko said Ipid officers were on the scene. This was confirmed by Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini. “The version of events given by the police will be tested against that of witnesses as well as the evidence in totality. The investigation continues,” he said.
Police spokeswoman Gwala rubbished claims of foul play. She said one of the deceased suspects wore a bulletproof vest, while another was wanted in an attempted murder in Loskop last month.
She said the recovered firearms will be subjected to ballistic tests.
Those arrested, will appear at the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder, attempted murder, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
Acting Provincial Commissioner Major General Bheki Langa praised the members for the recovery saying officers, “will defend themselves when attacked by ruthless criminals while executing their duties. We wish the injured police official a speedy recovery.”