Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the South African Police Service National Commemoration Day, SAPS Memorial, Union Buildings
Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Nhleko,
Deputy Minister of Police, Ms Maggie Sotyu,
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Mr Francois Beukman,
Free State MEC of Police, Roads and Transport, Mr Butana Komphela,
Acting National Commissioner of Police, Lt Gen Khomotso Phahlane,
SAPS Management and all Members of the Police Service,
The Leadership of POPCRU and SAPU,
Families of our deceased police officers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are honoured and humbled to participate in this, the South African Police Service Commemoration Day.
We mark this important day in September which is not only South Africa’s heritage month, but also Police Safety month.
In a nation that values human rights, respect and dignity, the murder of men and women in blue – and indeed of any person – is an affront to everything we value and hold dear.
Together we must forge a humane nation in which we all care for one another.
Together we must build a nation that values the sanctity of life and protects the most vulnerable.
Together we must build a society that respects the rule of law and guarantees the safety of the police officers that are entrusted to protect us.
We must build a culture that values police; that sees them not merely as public servants, but as courageous men and women who have answered a calling.
The death of one police officer is one death too many.
It is thus heart-breaking to learn that during the last year, 72 members of the police service lost their lives – 40 of them in the line of fire.
The youngest of those that we remember today is Constable Sabelo Nkunzi Manyanga.
He was only 28 years of age when he was fatally shot two days before Christmas last year while on duty in the Vimbukhalo area in KwaZulu-Natal.
He had three children. And the youngest was only one month old.
It is difficult to comprehend the depth of the loss that his death caused, nor to understand the callous disregard for human life of those who pulled the trigger.
We learn of horrific deaths of long serving, loyal police officers who are murdered by criminals for cell phones and firearms.
Families are left to live with the enduring pain and trauma that visit all of us with the loss of our loved ones.
On behalf of government and the people of South Africa, we wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of our fallen heroes and heroines.
We pray that you heal and gain strength as you rebuild your lives.
May you all find comfort in the knowledge that millions of us truly value your loved ones and the service that they rendered with distinction to our nation.
As the names of your loved ones are etched today on the monument, please know that your pain and their sacrifice remain etched in our hearts.
Their murder can never be justified in our country.
We ask our nation to unite in saying that the murder of our police officers is unacceptable.
We must not only condemn.
We must also commit our communities to work with the entire justice system to ensure that those who commit these heinous crimes pay for their deplorable deeds.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Those who join the police, with a calling to serve and protect, are aware of the risks they face, but choose to confront them because they are committed to the cause of protecting others.
When a police officer dies, we lose a beloved family member, colleague and friend.
We also lose a valuable, skilled, trained and committed patriot.
We support the leadership of SAPS in their implementation of the Police Safety Strategy.
Members are continuously reminded to stay alert, to apply training, to remain in radio contact, to have the correct functional equipment, including bulletproof vests and to call for back up whenever necessary.
The Back to Basics campaign is positively contributing to the safety of police officers.
We appreciate the insistence on the strict implementation of SAPS Standing Orders and National Instructions.
One aspect of police safety that we should not underestimate is the role of the community.
We would never want community members to put their lives at risk or to usurp the responsibilities of police members.
But communities have a vital role to play.
By participating in Community Policing Forums they can have a voice in local policing and become aware of crime trends in their areas.
They can mobilise all community members to be the eyes and ears of the police, providing tip-offs on criminal activities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
During this Police Safety Month, we pay tribute to the nearly 200,000 policemen and women who grew up with the dream of serving their communities by making sure that we are safe and feel safe.
Upon completing their training, they salute our national flag and take an oath on our Constitution as a demonstration of their commitment to a peaceful and secure nation.
As police officers, your career is dedicated towards placing the needs and interests of other people before your own.
Your service and sacrifice builds our nation.
You keep our ports of entry and national key points safe.
You bring security, dignity and order to the many national and international events we host in our country.
It is you who work as guardians of our Constitutional order by ensuring that South Africans exercise their right to vote in an environment free of fear, intimidation and violence.
As first responders, you often place yourselves in the line of fire at crime scenes.
You are often called upon to bring calm and common sense in situations where ordinary citizens fail to reason with one another.
And you are exposed to the flaws in our social fabric that lead to traumatic scenes of domestic violence, sexual and emotional abuse of children and the horrors of gang violence.
While most of us take a night of rest for granted, thousands of SAPS members at our 1,142 police stations around the country remain at their posts.
You continue to improve the way you render services, ensuring that through innovations like mobile police stations you reach the most remote and under-resourced areas of our land.
Today we pay tribute to the detectives who tirelessly pursue suspects who may be on the run and meticulously put together the forensic details of complex crimes.
We pay tribute to specialists who detect and prosecute organised crime and economic offences that inflict great damage on our society and economy.
We pay tribute to mortuary staff, information and communications technology specialists, stock theft units, post-traumatic stress counsellors, railway police teams, dog handlers, flight crews and so many other teams that make up our police service.
To you, we say thank you.
Thank you for braving the cold and enduring the heat.
Thank you for comforting us when we need it.
Thank you for reuniting us with lost family and stolen property.
Thank you for putting criminals behind bars and keeping our streets safe.
Thank you for opening the imagination of young South Africans to exciting careers in the Police Service.
Thank you for thinking of us before thinking of yourself.
We pay tribute in this way, because you come from our families, our homes, our churches, our football clubs, our stokvels, our jazz bands and our community policing forums.
You are our mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, husbands, wives, friends and neighbours.
Beneath your uniforms and defensive gear, you are flesh and blood; ordinary people assuming extraordinary duties in often extraordinary circumstances.
We therefore treasure you, your service and your lives.
I thank you.
Source: Government of South Africa.