MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane.

THE killing of law enforcement officers cannot continue unabated.
It is not only a gross negation of the officers' most basic constitutional right to life, but is also an assault on the right to life of all citizens whose safety is in the hands of these law enforcement officers.

The killing of police officials in the line of duty cannot be normal and, as a country, we must take a stand and ask the question: When will this ruthless behaviour come to an end?

South African Institute of Race Relations statistics reveal a 61.9% decline in police murders since 1994.

This, however, is little comfort, if any, to the wives, husbands, children, mothers, brothers and colleagues of the deceased, whose lives continue to be taken by criminals mercilessly.

Perhaps the time has come for us as a country to pause and reflect on this. When will we act and stop the killing of those who are tasked with the responsibility of being our guardians in our respective communities?

This must stop: before we know it, we will be left with no one to protect the good citizens of this country.

As a country, what does this say about our moral fibre, which has been tarnished to the extent that we don't fear or respect our law enforcement agencies?

In other countries, a police officer is respected and treated with utmost dignity. This is alarming and a huge cause for concern, as the people who are trained to protect us are being killed, and brutally so, on a regular basis.

The emerging trend is that criminals appear not to be fearful of confronting our law enforcement officers and they even go to the extent of killing them.

The recent upsurge in the number of murdered police officers, not only in Gauteng but in the whole country, since the beginning of this year is a sore wound that can never be healed.

We are under no illusion that all of us as law-abiding South Africans have a protracted war ahead of us, a war that has been declared by heartless criminals on our women and men in blue.

According crime’s statistics, a police officer is killed every 10 days in South Africa.

Despite numerous efforts by the government to eradicate this kind of crime, the statistics remain far too high. As a country, we cannot have such statistics in respect of people who are tasked to protect us.

For the past few months we have been waking up to news that a police officer, if not several officers, have been killed in the line of duty, with the latest being a Joburg metro police officer, Ayanda Zulu.

In the past seven months, about 12 officers have died in the line of duty in Gauteng, with five of these murders occurring in February.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the killings have now reached a point which warrants necessary action to ensure the safety of law enforcement officers.

This is atrocious. It cannot go on. Innocent, selfless and dedicated cops have taken an oath to protect communities, but some within our communities turn against the protection provided by the state.

Do we want to become a state which is notorious for criminals causing mayhem?

I am totally taken aback by these brazen attacks and the disregard of our police officers by these callous criminals.

What is comforting is that there has been a breakthrough in some of these cases, such as the arrest of two suspects, aged 30 and 35, who are linked to a business robbery and the murder of 50-year-old Constable Makhubu, who was shot and killed during a robbery at the Selcourt Engen garage in Springs on the night of February 13.

I am confident that our investigation team will work around the clock to ensure that all perpetrators of these crimes are brought to book.

There is a war out there, which, by the way, has been declared by criminals on society and the police, and society in this instance is on the side of the police.

The shocking realisation is that the perpetrators of these crimes live among us, in our communities, and unfortunately for some, in our homes.

It is now in the hands of community members to work closely with law enforcement agencies to assist in the arrest of these animals.

This barbaric behaviour should not go unpunished. The perpetrators of these senseless crimes should be dealt with severely when they have been apprehended.

Over and above being police officers, these are mothers, fathers, brothers, sons and daughters.

When they take off their uniform, they are ordinary citizens just like the rest of us. The killing of cops leaves orphans and widows behind. They leave their families devastated and in agony.

It has a huge impact on their families, especially for those who are breadwinners.

Families have to adopt a different model in terms of how the household is run.

The truth is that the killings of law enforcement officers have negative effects such as vulnerability and trauma.

In addition, they affect not only the spouse of the deceased but also colleagues and management within the service.

The victimisation of police by criminals that results in direct injury or death on duty, while witnessed by other officers, is a traumatic experience.

We therefore call upon all citizens of Gauteng to work in collaboration with our law enforcement agencies to tackle this scourge.

Indeed, the time has come to face this collectively head-on, as the government cannot win this mammoth battle on its own.

* Nkosi-Malobane is the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety.

The Saturday Star