Police have declared war on criminals ahead of the festive season. This has been evident at the successes they have had in dealing with brazen cash-in-transit (CIT) robberies.
SAPS has also foiled a number of CIT heists and managed to kill over 40 criminals in a space of two months.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, National SAPS Commissioner General Fannie Masemola and civil societies have applauded the men and women in blue, police watchdog Ipid on another had has raised concerns at the rate officers are killing criminals.
This week, police foiled and intercepted a gang that was about to commit a cash in transit robbery in KwaZulu-Natal. The heavily armed gang was intercepted in Vrede, Free State.
Masemola commended the men and women in blue for the success.
Police were following up on intelligence of a planned CIT when a shoot-out ensued. Unfortunately, a 40-year-old security officer was shot and killed when the suspects, who were travelling in a Dodge sedan, opened fire.
A shoot-out ensued and the Dodge overturned. It was later discovered that it was hijacked in Wierdabrug, Centurion.
At the scene, two suspects were injured and arrested. Police recovered an AK47 and an R5 rifle with more than 240 rounds of high calibre ammunition.
Another group of suspects were intercepted in Memela, about 52km from Vrede.
Three suspects were arrested and some got away. A manhunt has since been launched for those who fled the scene.
At this scene, two Mercedes Benz sedans were recovered and one has already been detected as stolen.
“Our members are on high alert to prevent and combat incidents of serious and violent crime, especially aggravated robberies. We will continue to trace these wanted criminals, it’s them and us and this is a fight we are not willing to lose. We have heightened our operations and are intensifying them throughout the country,” said Masemola.
In KwaZulu-Natal alone, police gunned down 19 CIT suspects in different regions.
Just last week, four CIT robbers were killed in a shoot-out with law-enforcement agencies in Mmakau, North West.
According to the SAPS, a multi-disciplinary team received intelligence about a group of suspects planning to commit a CIT robbery between the North West and Gauteng.
The suspects are aged between 30 and 45 years old.
Earlier last month, four suspects who were suspected to have been involved in a number of CIT robberies in the eThekwini District were gunned down in a shoot-out with police on the N2, not far from Queen Nandi Drive.
In September, about 19 CIT robbers were gunned down in Limpopo, five of the deceased were from Zimbabwe while the rest were from Gauteng and Limpopo.
During these brazen attacks, a number of SAPS officers had also been killed.
This prompted the police unions, Popcru and Sapu, to want the government to declare police killings as treason.
Police management were left with an egg on their face earlier last month when a gang of CIT robbers closed down the N12 near Soweto. They made away with an undisclosed amount of money after blowing up the cash van. They had also hijacked a number of cars including a luxury car of a woman they kidnapped.
Cele told police to defend themselves when faced with dangerous situations.
Ipid national spokesperson Robbie Raburabu said the institute is worried about the number of suspects dying at the hands of police.
He said there had been a number of deaths happening in KZN, he said there is a need to investigate this matter.
“Criminals are criminals, they will do anything to actually counter what the police are trying to do. We are not against what the police are doing. We agree with what the police are doing to try and curb crime. At the same time, there is also an outcry from members of the community who questioned why it is that these people are being killed instead of being arrested? Are you guys as Ipid approving that these people kill our people,” Raburabu said.
When asked how should police respond to criminals attacking them, Raburabu said it depends on a situation a officer finds him/herself in.
“Obviously, if someone is shooting at you, you have to return the fire yourself. But all we are saying is that we must do that with responsibility because it shouldn’t be an issue that this one is a criminal and we are going to shoot. We hope that is not what is happening,” he said.
Raburabu conceded that though they are investigating the cases, they are very far from finalising them.
He said as soon as they are finalised, the outcome would be made known.