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Tembisa Hospital shooting: Police union Popcru raises alarm on suicide among cops

Tembisa Hospital entrance

Nursing assistant Lebo Monene, 30, was allegedly gunned down by her partner, a police officer, who then turned he gun on himself. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Feb 11, 2022

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Pretoria – The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said the unfortunate death of a Tembisa Provincial Tertiary Hospital staff member who was allegedly shot by her partner, an on-duty police officer, was distressing.

Nursing assistant Lebo Monene, aged 30, was allegedly gunned down by her partner, a police officer, in the hospital's parking lot on Wednesday morning. The assailant turned the gun on himself, attempting suicide, and was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

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“Such regrettable acts dent the image of the SAPS as an organisation, and while we abhor and sturdily discourage such acts, their frequency among members, we believe, is partly a result of the deep-rooted underlying challenges faced by many among the SAPS ranks,” said Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo.

“The acts of suicide within and among members of the SAPS are at an alarming level, with an average of at least 20 reported cases over each of the past 2 years, calling for urgent measures by all stakeholders to enhance their roles in curbing this trend as policing is becoming more stressful when compared to other careers or professions.”

Mamabolo said officers were often exposed to incidents that placed their lives in danger, and the nature of their work is such that the gruesome scenes they witness bear conditions of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock.

“These stress levels affect individuals, their families, the SAPS as an organisation and the community at large, all while a study on South African suicide rates reveals that officers of the SAPS are eleven times more likely to commit suicide than the average South African citizen, and are five times more likely to commit suicide in comparison to police suicide rates internationally,” said Mamabolo.

He said South Africa consistently struggled with some of the highest rates of violent crime in the world, and pressing human tragedies competed for police attention.

“This scale and scope of crime and restiveness is enough to put immense pressure on our 177 794 staff capacity that is expected to service an over 60 million population, all of which is complicated by the underlying causes of crime in South Africa, which are embedded in a complex mix of inequality, disenfranchisement and the legacy of apartheid,” said Mamabolo.

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“This state of affairs is further compounded by the limited chances of promotions, the shortages of resources and unfair practices in relation to compensation, coupled with the reality that there are inconsistencies in leadership, which continues to cause divisions in the law enforcement environment.”

In his State of the Nation Address on Thursday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said government would provide resources to recruit and train 12 000 new police personnel.

“We will make resources available to recruit and train an additional 12 000 new police personnel to ensure that the SAPS urgently gets the capacity it needs,” said Ramaphosa.

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“Another area of immediate attention will be the re-establishment of community policing forums to improve relations and coordination between local police and residents of the areas they serve.”

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