Cape Town: South Africans should ask themselves whether the constant and undeserved criticism of police was not a contributing factor to the country’s high number of police murders, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said today.
“We must ask whether we are not causing animosity between the police and the community with these utterances that are unfortunate,” said Phiyega, while speaking at the memorial service held at the Oostenberg Oasis Church in Kuilsriver for three police officers killed on Monday and Sunday last week.
The three – Sergeant Landile Yengo, Sergeant Bafuni Mdlalo and Constable Lungiso Depha – are among four police officers killed in the city in the past week, bringing to all seven, the number of members killed in the city in the past month.
“When you kill a cop, you kill a nation,” said Phiyega, who added that all South Africans had a role to play in doing away with the mentality of killing a law enforcement officer.
Given the police to population rate of 1:360, each police death meant that a further 1 200 citizens would be without dedicated care, she said.
Police murders, she pointed out, were a particular problem in the Western Cape which had 303 attacks on police members in the 2012/13 year, compared to 77 such attacks in Gauteng over the same period.
She said recently police were paying tribute to the fall in police murders, but that in a short time there had been a series of police murders in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and now in the Western Cape.
South Africa, she said, had never recorded fewer than 80 police murders in any single year, while in their worst years Tanzania had five police murders and Zimbabwe three or four.
A new policing strategy to prevent attacks on police members is being developed by the visible policing division and the deaths of the police officers would not be a set back for police.
“We will not back down,” said Phiyega.
“Our brothers in blue have left behind heartbroken families and devastated colleagues. They’ve paid for the loved service that they gave this nation – they gave their lives for it,” she said.
She called on police officers to be out in the community searching for the perpetrators of police murders.
She said the police had set up the SAPS Education Trust, to help fund the studies of police officers’ children, including those of fallen members.
The trust will be officially launched next Wednesday and a number of member’s children will receive university endowments.
Provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer said the killings were a reaction to police in the province taking back the province from criminals.
“I think it’s about time that we put aside whatever differences there are, from whatever spectrum we are talking about, and say to our heroes in blue – we salute you,” said Lamoer, adding “We will support you general (Phiyega), doesn’t matter who says what”.
Family members, as well as the police station commanders, who oversaw the respective officers, paid tribute to the three police officers.
Mdlalo, 35, who was shot and killed at his Mitchells Plain home last Monday night and leaves behind his wife and three children, was described as a caring father and competent officer who was proud to serve the community.
Depha, 34, who was shot dead last Sunday by a motorist who hit his police vehicle, was someone who would go the extra mile to care for his colleagues and community.
Yengo, 43, who was also shot and killed on Sunday leaves behind his wife and four children, was described as a quiet, humble and friendly police officer.
Yengo’s brother Mzwanele appealed to Phiyega to tackle the problem of police killings in the province.
Popcru provincial secretary Mncedisi Mbolekwa called for those with any information relating to the murders of police officers to contact the nearest police station.
The police union, through its bursary fund for children of deceased members, is to cover the school and tertiary education costs of one child in each of the families of the slain officers.