Unions raise the alarm over rise in police killings

Police unions cautiously welcomed the newly appointed police and correctional services ministers. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers

Police unions cautiously welcomed the newly appointed police and correctional services ministers. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 6, 2024


Metro Police officer Ronald Tshepo Masubelele, who tragically lost his life in the line of duty, will be laid to rest in Mokopane, Limpopo, on Saturday.

Masubelele and 22 other police officers were killed in the fourth quarter of the 2023/2024 financial year.

JMPD spokesperson Xolani Fihla said Masubelele lost his life after a fatal collision while in pursuit of a vehicle that had failed to stop at a roadside checkpoint.

When the head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya, released the fourth quarter of the 2023/24 financial year milestones recently, he told South Africans that an attack on a police official was an attack on the state.

“Police officers are a protective layer ensuring that law abiding people are protected against criminals,” Lebeya said.

He said 22 police officials, 17 off-duty, five on-duty, were murdered during the fourth quarter.

“We responded and effected 18 arrests. Furthermore, eight accused have been sentenced, five of whom were given life imprisonment,” Lebeya said.

Unions have cautiously welcomed the newly appointed police and correctional services ministers and they are expecting them to prioritise declaring attacks on police as treason.

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Senzo Mchunu was appointed as the new police minister and Pieter Groenewald as the new correctional services minister.

The deputy police ministers are Polly Boshielo (a former Limpopo MEC) and Cassel Mathale (a former premier and deputy police minister).

The union urged the ministers to allocate sufficient resources to combating crime and maintaining safety and security.

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) stressed the need to have a capable, efficient and ethical criminal justice cluster (CJC) leadership that can optimally meet the needs and expectations of its staff complement and the populace at large by ensuring the allocation of sufficient resources in combating crime and maintaining safety and security.

Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said the CJC has been under immense strain for the longest time, with continued infighting, high crime levels, police killings, overcrowding and understaffing – coupled with huge backlogs in various areas.

The South African Policing Union (Sapu) welcomed the Cabinet announcement.

Sapu called upon Mchunu to walk in his lane and not interfere with the operational business of the police as that responsibility constitutionally lies with the national police commissioner.

“We do not want a police minister who behaves like he or she is the national commissioner,” said Sapu spokesperson Leseba Thobakgale.

He said Groenewald was not completely new in the security sector as he was once a member of the police portfolio committee. “We would like to give him an opportunity to provide leadership to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). The multiple challenges within the DCS are not only overcrowding that need his urgent attention, we have a department that is overworked. The ratio of correctional officers per prisoner is way above the acceptable international standard and that compromises service delivery,” he said.

Mamabolo said the criminal justice system in South Africa and law enforcement officers had become targeted victims of the worst crime, with attacks and killings escalating in the country.

“This unfolding national crisis has the potential of threatening the country’s peace and stability as the majority of these dedicated men and women are killed on duty while preventing, combating or solving a crime, while some are attacked while guarding inmates, traffic and police officers are ambushed when conducting patrols, with their official firearms and uniforms being stolen with the probable intention of committing further crimes.

“We reaffirm our call for government to publicly declare war against cold-blooded criminals by amending current legislation to classify this barbaric act as treasonous, and expect the newly appointed minister to push for legislative amendments in this regard,” Mamabolo said.

He said the police-population ratio was also a challenge, with the current police-population ratio of 1:450, which falls short of the UN ratio of 1:220 officers to the population.

Mamabolo said in order to curb the cold-blooded murder of men and women in blue, the police safety strategy should be reviewed and the Criminal Procedure Act amended to classify the killing of police officers as treason.

Saturday Star