Eight dead in 10 days of crime war

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Police in KwaZulu-Natal have killed eight people in less than 10 days after Bheki Cele, MEC for transport, community safety and liaison, told them not to hesitate and shoot to kill all criminals.

Less than two weeks after Cele's call, police have shot dead eight suspects in separate incidents in the province.

Cele lashed out at criminals, saying police in the province would shoot to kill.

"We cannot allow police to be killed by criminals. Once criminals pull their guns, police should aim for the head," he told a prayer meeting at Umlazi Cinema in Durban two weeks ago.

Barely a week later, four hijackers were shot dead in Effingham. Two ATM bombers were killed last week, a taxi hitman was killed and an alleged murder and robbery kingpin, Rasta Msisi, 43, linked to the St Tropez Restaurant attack, was shot dead.

However, the province's "crime war" also claimed the lives of four policemen, who were shot dead by criminals while on duty.

An alleged taxi hitman known as "Inkabi" was killed in a shoot-out with police near Hammersdale in Durban.

He was travelling with a man wanted in connection with murdering taxi owner Bonginkosi Dladla, 40, his brother Mbeki Ngobese, 24, six-year-old toddler Siphokazi Ndawonde, her mother Amanda Ndawonde, 26, and grandmother Nokuthula Ndwawonde, 52, in Umlazi, south of Durban.

Police spokesman Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said the police's mandate was to create a safe environment for all citizens.

"It's not our mandate or vision to kill. But there are situations which force police to use extra power when criminals shoot at us," he said.

Mdunge confirmed that in the past few weeks police had dealt harshly with criminals, but he denied it was a response to Cele's call.

He said police had a right to protect themselves against criminals, even if it meant shooting to kill.

Mdunge said police had exchanged fire with taxi hitmen on the N3 near Hammersdale and two suspects had been arrested.

"Police are investigating many cases of taxi killings and we cannot confirm that they are linked to any of the recent killings," he said.