'Police are not sacrificial lambs'

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Irked and determined to curb the scourge of crime and to protect communities, the SAPS has taken a hard line against criminals.

Police also warned ATM bombers "to either stop your activities now or be forced to do so".

It seemed the tough action resulted in fewer attacks.

l In September, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre said 378 ATM blasts occurred nationally since the beginning of the year. Gauteng topped the list with 221 blasts.

l In April, a chilling trend emerged in which armed gangs of up to 30 started blowing up ATMs.

Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger warned that "more ATM bombings are in the offing as the robbers become more daring and violent".

l The controversial "shoot to kill" statement by Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Susan Shabangu remains the biggest topic of discussion.

Shabangu made the statement when she addressed hundreds of people at the Union Buildings in Pretoria in August at the SAPS' yearly commemoration to honour police officials who died on duty.

"Police officers are not sacrificial lambs in this country. There are criminals who take the police for granted and think the law works in their favour. But the police should not kneel down and let criminals shoot at them," she said.

National police spokesman Phuti Setati said 118 police officers were killed in the line of duty in the 2007-2008 financial year. There were 454 attacks on police officers reported.

Burger said: "If the killings continue, police will be forced to revert to violence ."

SAPS crime statistics show that the police are slowly winning the war against criminals.

l In May, in Isando, Johannesburg, more than 10 armed men were in the process of robbing a company that distributes cell phones. Boxes of cellphones valued at about R10million were loaded onto two bakkies and a truck when the police pounced.

They arrested three men, recovered the cellphones and 16 firearms belonging to the security company contracted by the company.

l In October, Eastern Cape police arrested Sakhumzi Mvoko, the most wanted criminal in the province.

Mvoko and his gang allegedly robbed a G4S cash van that was collecting money at a petrol station in Port Elizabeth on October 20. The robbers fled with a number of cash boxes.

Mvoko has about 38 cases pending against him, including nine of murder, 14 of cash-in-transit heists, four of escaping from lawful custody, five of illegal possession of firearms and three of armed robbery in Durban. His gang members are still at large.

l In November two police officers were killed and two others were critically injured while they were escorting a security vehicle to a pension pay point in KwaMaphumulo, KwaZulu-Natal. Police later traced two suspects, Nhlanhla Masondo and Bongani Ntombela, to houses in KwaMashu and Inanda respectively.

Both were shot and killed when they opened fire on the police.

l An organised crime syndicate in Northern Cape was busted when 23 suspects, including five police officers, were arrested for forcing people to pay them to stop them being arrested.

l In February police arrested David Rannditsheni who they allege is the Modimolle, Limpopo, serial rapist and killer. The victims' ages range between four and 13.

This has not been a good year for criminals. If police continue in the same way this coming year, the country will be a safer and better place.