Cop killing sparks fear

SOUTH African Police Service members in Mahwelereng, Limpopo, are living in fear after the killing of a colleague by thugs in a shootout that left another officer fighting for his life.

The incident happened near Mokopane on Monday.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Ronel Otto said two constables from the Mahwelereng police station were patrolling when they noticed a suspicious-looking car - a Toyota Corolla - at a filling station in the area. The car had allegedly been hijacked in Mahwelereng on Sunday.

The officers approached the two occupants of the car. While they were talking to the men another man in a Nissan bakkie behind them allegedly started shooting at the officers.

"One of the police officers was shot in the chest and neck and died on the scene."

Otto identified the dead officer as Constable RJ Sithomola, 27. His colleague, Constable MJ Kekana was shot in the stomach. He is in the intensive care unit at an unidentified hospital.

Otto said police were hunting down the four men believed to have attacked the officers. No arrests had been made yet.

A source told Sowetan yesterday that the Corolla, which was used by the men, belonged to a member of the South African National Defence Force who was killed in the area, allegedly by the same men on Sunday.

Another officer at the station, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were now living in fear.

"We need protection because the manner in which our members are dying at the hands of the thugs is worrisome," the officer said.

Otto said provincial police commissioner Calvin Sengani had expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased and also wished the surviving member a speedy recovery.

Sengani stressed that police would not rest until the suspects were arrested.