An off-duty police officer died after being shot twice in the head during an exchange of gunfire with armed robbers in Mpumalanga on Tuesday morning.
Mpumalanga police spokesman, Superintendent Abie Khoabane told Sowetan yesterday that, although the incident happened on Tuesday, he only received the report on Wednesday night.
Constable Mabutho Machede, 28, who was attached to the Lesley police station was in the company of his colleagues, who were also off-duty, when they saw a security guard chasing four men at Lebogang Township near Lesley.
"The incident happened in broad daylight, at about 11am," said Khoabane.
The police tried to help the security guard, but the men started firing shots at them.
They hit Machede twice in the head, killing him instantly.
Police returned fire and hit one of the men in the right leg. The other three managed to escape.
The injured suspect was found with two 9mm pistols.
He is under police guard at a hospital police refused to identify for security reasons.
"Our investigations have revealed that the four armed suspects had just robbed Sizanani Supermarket of an undisclosed amount of cash, a number of cell phone airtime vouchers and two cellphones," said Khoabane.
A customer at Sizanani told police he had seen a suspicious- looking man enter the supermarket while his three accomplices waited outside.
"The customer should have informed the police immediately instead of trying to warn the others because the delay resulted in the three suspects, who were waiting outside, herding him into the supermarket at gunpoint," said Khoabane.
Mpumalanga provincial police Commissioner Afrika Khumalo, has called in the services of a specialist tracing team headed by Superintendent Botsotso Moukangwe, the head of the Mpumalanga serious organised crime unit, to hunt the suspects.
"These suspects are in real trouble because they are being traced by a crack team. We will not rest until they are behind bars. I suggest they hand themselves in before it is too late," said Moukangwe yesterday.
He asked members of the community to assist in tracing the suspects Lebogang Michael Motaung, 25, and Elphus Makhosonke Sebeko, 24. The other suspect has only been identified as Thabang. Police believe he is the son of someone called Mzamo of Ermelo.
Motaung is also from Ermelo while Sebeko is believed to be from Secunda or Lesley.