Task team probes police killings

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Christopher Motabogi

Police minister Nathi Mthethwa has established a task team to curb police killings.  According to the minister, 92 police officers were killed in the line of duty between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012. Mthethwa now challenges all South Africans to go beyond mere remembrance (of those killed).  “We call upon all law-abiding South Africans of our nation, to pledge and demonstrate through actions, that as society you shall endeavour to also protect police officers against vicious criminals,” Mthethwa said during the recent SAPS National Commemoration Day. The minister further describes police killings as the evil scourge that robs families of their loved ones as well as the SAPS of its dedicated men and women in blue.

Christina Mokhasi (37) lost her husband, Ephraim, who was shot and killed during an armed robbery at a Chinese business in Kopanong location, in Bloemfontein, on 8 January this year. “He was a nice, loving husband who was hardworking; helping people. The people of Freedom Square location knew him very well. If they had a problem, they came to ask for help,” says Mokhasi. She fondly remembers how her husband, also described by colleagues as one of the best police officers, would attend to crime prevention within his community, irrespective of whether he was on duty.

“I was shocked (at his murder) and my children too. They (police officers) play a big role in the community. And they help the community, but it’s the (same) community who kill them,” says Mokhasi.  Her comments come exactly one month after her husband was laid to rest. One of the gunmen was also shot and killed during the robbery; three are still at large and two others are behind bars. And the judiciary also sent a strong message to would-be police killers when it sentenced two men to life imprisonment in Harrismith recently. Handing down judgment, Judge Connie Motsumi said Teko Mphuti (26) and Malefetsane Nhlapo (36), who was also a police informer, had not shown remorse in killing student constable Pule Rasebakoa. Rasebakoa’s body was discovered in the Drakensberg Mountains, hidden beneath rocks after the two had led rescue teams to his body. He was missing for at least three months.

Eastern Free State police spokesperson Mmako Mophiring welcomed the sentence handed down and especially judge Motsumi’s praise of the police and rescue teams’ efforts in bringing Mphuti and Nhlapo to book.  Meanwhile, Mthethwa says the task team will address dangers that police members face daily.  “We shall persist in addressing the dangers that face our members on a daily basis and to find ways to protect them. To this end, we have tasked police management to ensure safety measures are adhered to, for example, wearing of bullet-proof vests when responding to crime call-outs,” says Mthethwa.