The South African Police Service paid tribute on Sunday to the bravery of the force’s members who have died in the line of duty. At the annual National Commemoration Day Ceremony, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula once again warned would-be criminals that his officers would fight fire with fire. By ORATENG LEPODISE.
“Being a member of the SAPS is not merely a job, it is a vocation – a calling only a few will understand or truly appreciate,” said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa while delivering the keynote address at Sunday’s SAPS National Commemoration Day Ceremony.
In this past financial year, 40 police officers, 29 of whom were constables, died during the line of duty.
Constable Baliki Mogapi, who had been a police officer for seven years, was shot and killed on 21 July, 2016, while attending to a complaint at an FNB ATM in Hartbeesfontein. “I miss my husband every day of my life. Life is not the same without him. He was the breadwinner. Ever since he died, life has been more tough because I do not work,” said Nthatise Mogapi, the constable’s wife.
Family members of the dead officers, senior police officials and government officials laid wreaths during the ceremony to pay tribute to the “fallen heroes and heroines” who died between 1 April, 2016 and 31 March, 2017.
“Daily, our members are exposed to various challenges, life-threatening situations and violence in the fight against crime. Their duties are not merely another day at the office,” said Acting National Police Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba.
Criminals must be dealt with, said Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.
“You can’t tell me that police officers must die and not be protected by the law. We are not promoting violence but we are saying that dangerous criminals must be dealt with accordingly and must be met with with equal power in relation to dangerous weapons they carry,” said Mbalula.
He urged South Africans to stop harbouring and protecting criminals and then put the blame on police officers. “Stop buying stolen goods; work with the police so that we can apprehend these criminals,” said Mbalula.
“Criminals must not think that they are on holiday – we are going to find them,” said Mbalula.
Mbalula also vowed to revive the South African Police Service Trust to ensure that children of deceased officers go to school and continue to realise their dreams.
Constable Sipho Msibi was shot and killed while confronting criminals in Hillbrow last year, leaving behind his fiancée Thuli Nkosi and their son. “There is not a day that passes that I don’t think about him,” Nkosi said, adding that she hoped the minister got the trust up and running. “All I have ever wanted is a good future for my son and for him to go to the best schools and this trust will at least ensure that for him,” she said. DM
Photo: Members of the SAPS take part in a parade during an event on Sunday commemorating the deaths of 40 police officers who were killed in the line of duty over the past financial year. Photo: Orateng Lepodise