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Call for society not to sit by in silence as nation pays tribute to fallen police officers

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President Cyril Ramaphosa was speaking during the SAPS National Commemoration Day to honour police officers who lost their lives in the fight against crime.

Police officers at the National Commemoration Day at the Police Memorial site at the Union Buildings. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated the call for society not to sit by in silence as criminals continue to wage war against the women and men in blue.

Ramaphosa was speaking during the SAPS National Commemoration Day to honour police officers who lost their lives in the fight against crime. He said the day should also serve to mobilise society against the killing of the police officers.

“No society can remain silent when criminals have clearly declared war on the police. Our men and women in blue represent the authority of the state and any attack on them is a direct attack on the state and an attack on the people.

“If criminals bother to read history, they must know that no one has defeated the people.

President Cyril Ramaphosa greets family members of police officers who died in the line of duty. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

“Those responsible for police killings who have not yet been arrested must know that wherever they are, they will be found and twill face the full might of the law.”

The president said for the period April 1 last year to March 31 this year 33 police officers were killed in the line of duty, in varying circumstances.

Some officers died after they were targeted by criminals for their firearms; others were involved in shoot-outs with criminals and others were killed by reckless drivers who failed to stop when pulled over.

Ramaphosa said in spite of the loss, he was comforted that the recent briefing by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations boss, Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya, had confirmed that 187 suspects had been arrested for the murder of police officials since 2018.

In addition to that 55 accused were convicted and sentenced during the same period.

He took the opportunity to urge Minister of Police Bheki Cele to drive the process of ensuring that the police force was adequately resourced to prevent, combat and investigate police killings.

“All the perpetrators of these attacks on police must be brought to book. If we are to win the war against crime and police killings, we need to build healthy, stronger relations between the police and the communities they serve.”

Ramaphosa added: “In any community where crime happens, somebody always knows something, however some of our people remain silent for fear of victimisation.

“It is important that community policing forums work so that communities can appreciate the critical role they play by working with the police and reporting criminals who live among us.”

With the month of September also marking the start of Police Safety Month, Ramaphosa urged police officers to remain vigilant and be decisive in defending their lives and the lives of law-abiding citizens.

Meanwhile, the families and relatives of the 33 members said even though they were grieving their loss, they remained proud and honoured that their family members died doing something they loved.

This included the family of Constable Atlegang Nkgoeng, 28, the youngest officer to have died in that period. He was shot and killed during a stop-and-search two weeks shy of his 29th birthday on May 24.

His aunt, Lizzy Nkgoeng, said her nephew was a person who was filled with love, valued family, and took pride in his job even though he had only been with the police for four years.

Thabang Nkgoeng, the elder sister of Constable Nkgoeng, said she would always remember her younger brother as a hero, as he was extremely passionate about his job, and according to his station commander, always ready to apprehend criminals.

“We thought we would bid farewell to him for the last time during his funeral but coming here today was an emotional moment as if he died yesterday.

“Despite our loss I’m very proud of my young brother and will always remember him as my hero,” she said.

Michalene Marx, the wife of Captain Pier Marx from East London’s Search and Rescue K9 unit from 1992, said he was a dedicated and committed police member for 31 years and was always ready to go the extra mile.

“Sometimes when we couldn’t find the missing person or the drowned person, it bothered him for a while as he felt he couldn’t give the families closure.

“I miss his laughter, music and naughtiness, he was always up to mischief and he was just a sunshine.

I never thought this would happen but we’re happy to be here to celebrate his life and what he did for someone he didn’t know.”

Marx said it was an honour for the family to be part of the commemoration day as even though he drowned after he got tangled by a rope attached to trees, he still managed to rescue somebody and sacrificed his life.

“It’s a privilege and honour to know that he may have perished, but he saved somebody else. We were blessed to have had him in our lives, he was called Mr McGyver as he was always ready to assist, even in his private capacity he would always stop to help someone in need,” she added.

Pretoria News

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