Task team to probe perceived 'police inability to deal with riots': Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday a task team had been set up to investigate what caused the public perception that police were incapable of protecting them during the July riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the annual SAPS national commemoration day - paying respects to 34 men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty between April 1 2020 and March 31 2021.
Ramaphosa echoed the sentiments of police minister Bheki Cele and police commissioner Gen Kehla Sithole when he equated attacks on police officers to an attack on democracy and the state.
Ramaphosa's speech, at the SA Police Service memorial site at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, was accompanied by the loud wailing of family members.
Their emotions reached a crescendo when the names of their loved ones were read out after the playing of The Last Post by a lone trumpeter and the lowering of the SA flag to half-mast.
The ceremony was held as three more police officers were laid to rest, according to Cele, after being killed for their service pistols.
“This weekend we buried three of our own, targeted for their service pistols and killed mercilessly by criminals,” said Cele.
“The deputy minister of police and I attended funeral services of Sgt Nkosinathi Ncobo and Sgt Pumlani Dastile in the Eastern Cape on Friday,” he said.
“Yesterday we bade farewell to Sgt Sheryl Mogale in Ekhuruleni. She was gunned down in women’s month and her service pistol was also stolen,” said Cele.
“These lives were cut short by ruthless criminals and we will leave no stone unturned to make sure that we find them and they answer for their sins,” he said.
“Today we honour those officers who never made it back home after they left in the morning for work. We commemorate members in blue who gave their lives in the service of a mission to serve and protect,” he said.
“Every first Saturday of September we as SAPS family gather and take comfort in our shared bereavement. I wish we as a country could reach a point where there is no longer a need to have this annual tradition because our officers are no longer dying while serving their communities,” said Cele.
“Fallen but never forgotten. Heroes are never mourned but celebrated,” he said.
He said citizens could not afford to be bystanders and needed to be active in their communities to lessen the burden on the police service.
Ramaphosa said that police officers continued their work despite severe financial constraints which he said Sithole and Cele frequently reminded him about.
“These fallen heroes were colleagues. They were sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, loving fathers, and caring mothers. They were also neighbours and friends to many of us. They are and they will continue to be missed,” he said.
“Occasions such as this are a stark reminder of the perils and the dangers our men and women in uniform face as they carry out their duty to serve our nation and to protect our people.
“We fully understand the anxiety that accompanies the knowledge that you could leave your home for work never again to return,” Ramaphosa said.
“Today we salute all who work in the SAPS putting the safety and security of their family of the citizens above their own.”
“There’s no greater sacrifice and service that one can do than to put their own lives on the line so that others may have safety and security. Yours is indeed a difficult task. It’s a difficult calling that demands true selflessness.”
Harking back to the imagery from the riots where South Africans organised themselves to prevent looters from attacking infrastructure, homes and businesses in co-operation with the police and the army, Ramaphosa called on the public to “partner with the police” in the fight against crime.
“It is because of the collaboration and determination as well as the real focus between ordinary citizens and structures such as the community police forums that police, the SANDF and other law enforcement agencies were able to contain the violence and looting that erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July,” he said.
“The unrest that occurred in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng has created doubt in the minds of our people about the capabilities of our police to protect and defend them. And yet I know that the capability of the police to defend our people is strong.
“I have appointed a task team to determine what caused the response by police and other law enforcement agencies to be brought into question,” said Ramaphosa.
“I am hopeful that the outcomes of this review and inquiry will guide us and enable us to strengthen our resolve even more on how we should be even more prepared to prevent such events and to gain the confidence of our people with regards to defending and protecting our people against the actions of instigators of unrest and those with criminal intent.”
He said criminals lived within the communities on which they preyed.
“We must therefore work towards strengthening community-police relations and bring strategic stakeholders on board to bolster the efforts of police to bring down the levels of serious and violent crime.”
He called on the SAPS to bring the murderers of police to book.
“Unfortunately we have some in our society who have absolutely no regard for the patriotic duty discharged by our police officers.
“These are the people who attack our men and women in uniform and by so doing undermine the authority of the democratic state,” said Ramaphosa.
“Today we cherish the memories of those members who pay the ultimate price for their commitment and determination to serve the people of SA,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the 840 police officers and support personnel who died of Covid-19 since the outbreak last year.
“It’s important that we remember them because when we urged everyone to stay home as part of the fight against this deadly virus our police officers were out there in the streets serving the nation and forcing the lockdown regulations for the safety of all South Africans,” he said.
He thanked the families of the officers who supported their loved ones who served in the police.
“Quite understandably, some of us here may still be angry and hurt by the manner in which our loved ones perished.
“I want to urge everyone today that in the memory of our departed loved ones, let us transform that anger and hurt into a sense of determination to jointly rid our streets of all forms of crime,” said Ramaphosa.
“To all our men and women in blue, I call on you to honour your departed colleagues by remaining vigilant at all times and ensuring that no police officer dies at the hands of criminals.
“You must implement the Police Safety Strategy and — within the confines of the law —defend your own lives and the lives of our law abiding citizens.”