Johannesburg - A Johannesburg Metro Police Department and SAPS cops’ altercation which ended tragically has seen South Africans questioning when off-duty officers are required to carry firearms.
The JMPD officer, Sibusiso Zikalala, who died, was shot six times in the stand-off.
The two officers were both off duty when the altercation took place outside a nightclub on Juta Street in Braamfontein on Monday after 1am.
SA Policing Union spokesperson Lesiba Thobakgale said there was a practical reason for the officers to carry firearms while off duty.
“Remember, police officers remain officers whether on or off duty … our members at any time can place themselves on duty when they come across a circumstance that needs them to place themselves on duty. They won't say, ‘let me go back and fetch my firearm’, when they need to respond. Officers also get targeted a lot when isolated,” he said.
A crime expert, IRS Forensic Investigations CEO Chad Thomas, said a police officer may be issued a pistol at police college on completion of training, and this pistol goes with the officer for the duration of their career.
A close friend of Zikalala said that he was attacked by the constable and his three friends, who blocked him from driving away when he wanted to go.
“(They) were not friends, as some people suggested. In fact, the SAPS (officer) is an ex-lover of the wife of the JMPD officer. The JMPD officer attempted to drive out but was blocked by the SAPS officer with his friends in a white car,” said the source.
According to a report by police on the scene, Zikalala was off duty and at a nightclub with his wife. When he was leaving, three unknown men in a white VW Jetta prevented him from exiting the parking bay.
It is alleged that an argument ensued between Zikalala and the driver, who was later identified as an off-duty SAPS member attached to Parkview police station. In the heated argument, the SAPS member allegedly shot Zikalala six times in the upper torso, killing him.
Sipho Nhlapo said Zikalala was his brother. He said Zikalala was a member of the JMPD for almost 20 years as a decorated K9 officer who was instrumental in “a ton of major drug busts”.
“He lived to serve and protect, and more so in his last moments, he emphasised his grounding in the former when protecting his wife and mother of the youngest of his four beautiful babies from antagonists who put their hands on her and threatened to wield a gun on them,” Nhlapo said.
“We even noticed bruising on his head and shoulders at the mortuary, indicating that he may have been assaulted as he lay dead…
“Zikalala was a hero and one of the most loving and gentle people I know. He made sure everyone was happy and safe. And though you might not know or realise it, he made sure you were safe as well.
“I will miss him so much. And I hope before you make more comments about his passing, you take the opportunity to get to know his life too,” said Nhlapo.
The constable sent a voice note to a colleague clarifying his reason for shooting. “The JMPD wanted to shoot me outside of the vehicle; he kept on saying I should come outside of the car. I tried avoiding him, but he kept on saying, ‘Come out, come out.’ I could see that if I drove away, he would shoot me; he just wanted me out. The only option I had was to shoot and make sure I paralysed him. Unfortunately, I am using a lethal weapon; he passed on,” said the officer.
The voice note drove a number of South Africans to share their views on the incident, and they were divided.
“He probably thinks the court is like Twitter, where one tweet and 100 people agree. The law is naturally on the side of the deceased; the onus is on him to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was under threat or danger,” said Venus Flytrap on Twitter. Mzi Mtima, wrote: “Why were you blocking him from moving the car? Your intention was to provoke the situation to make sure he fell into a trap. You are guilty, officer.”
Ipid said they were investigating a murder, but no arrests have been made.