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Bheki Cele: 109 police officers murdered in past 11 months

Bheki Cele: 109 police officers murdered in past 11 months
Police Minister Bheki Cele delivers an update on successes achieved by the SAPS in response to serious and violent crimes. (Photo: Elmond Jiyane GCIS)

Police Minister Bheki Cele has defended officers involved in the killing of suspects. He was delivering an overview of police actions to combat serious and violent crimes over the past year.

‘Our message is clear: no officer should die with a gun in their hand,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Sunday.

He noted the mixed reactions to police “takedowns”, which have been in the spotlight recently after several suspects were killed in shootouts with the police. Cele said police had fatally shot 150 suspects from April 2023 to date.

Police killed nine people in a shootout in Mariannhill, KwaZulu-Natal, on Wednesday, 3 April. They had been targeting 11 suspects who were reportedly linked to murders, robberies and gang rape.

Also on Wednesday, police in Witbank, Mpumalanga, killed five suspects allegedly involved in cash-in-transit heists.

The father of two of those whom the police killed in Mariannhill questioned why SAPS members had killed rather than arrested the suspects. Cele said he was confident the police officers acted lawfully.

“We have, as the ministry, seen the mixed responses from various quarters of society. The death of any individual in the country, criminal or not, should never be a cause of celebration. But some in society doing so, following the takedown of the armed gangs in KZN and Mpumalanga this week, speaks volumes,” Cele said.

“However, there is an independent directorate that is there to investigate the actions of the police in such cases. We wish to allow those processes to unfold. With that said, the ministry and SAPS management remain resolute in their support for the men and women in blue who are at the coalface of hardened criminals.”

Cele said that from April 2023 to date, the SAPS had conducted 1,171 intelligence-led takedowns. He said these specialised operations involved weeks or months of planning, surveillance and monitoring of targets by “highly skilled detectives working together with members of tactical units, who execute arrests”.

He said the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) had in the past 11 months undertaken significant operations targeting criminal syndicates, resulting in the interception of 14 targets across a range of illicit activities including theft, fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering and contraventions of financial regulations

‘Police will come out on top’ 

Cele said 109 police officers had been killed in the past 11 months — 36 while on duty — and 83 suspects had been arrested in connection with the killings.

He said his priority was to keep officers safe and those who confronted police violently “will come out short. While it is the aim of the police to arrest suspects, some heavily armed suspected criminals choose to engage the police in a gun battle and police will respond accordingly. Police have and will come out on top during these takedowns.

“We call on the police to remain vigilant, protect communities and protect themselves. At all times, act tough on crime.”

Operation Shanela

In a detailed statement, Cele shared the results of a concentrated effort to fight crime under Operation Shanela, a broad crimefighting operation including roadblocks, visible policing and the tracing of wanted suspects.

Cele said since Operation Shanela’s introduction in May 2023:

  • 551,506 suspects had been arrested countrywide for various crimes;
  • 69,468 high-density crime prevention and combating operations had been conducted;
  • 8,563 suspected rapists and 6,045 murder suspects had been arrested;
  • 4,410 suspects had been arrested for attempted murder;
  • 63,573 suspects had been arrested for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm;
  • 37,333 suspects had been arrested for common assault;
  • 41,191 suspects had been arrested for contravention of the Immigration Act;
  • 16,073 drunk drivers had been arrested;
  • 2,819 illegal mining suspects had been arrested; and
  • 17,077 suspects had been arrested for allegedly dealing in drugs and 46,728 suspects had been arrested for being in possession of drugs.

Rise in kidnapping cases

“Kidnapping of members of the public and influential individuals as well as businesspersons remains a concern. The responses by the police to this crime is, however, encouraging and sizeable inroads are being made,” Cele said.

“The DPCI has arrested 62 suspects involved in kidnappings for ransom from April to date.

“Police operations have also led to the arrest of 55 suspects for the kidnapping of Chinese nationals in the country. Five suspects have been arrested for their role in the kidnapping of Mozambican nationals.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Paul Private says:

    To the police minister, firstly I am not saying sny police officials that died either on or off duty are complicit in any crime. But I hsve to highlight the number of extortionate cops, cops involved with gsngs and drug dealers , sketches different cops in different camps thus rendering the opposition or enemies hiw many if ghe dead has been set up or killed by fellow cops? Yhe police force is a sbsolute joke. Give me a gun and I’ll dhow you ehat is going in where, I will need a gun once I start pointing out and I will not as you stated die with a gun jn my hand.

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