In March 2017, Peddie police station in the Eastern Cape was broken into.
Thieves broke in through the roof in the middle of the night and made off with more than 30 firearms, among which were R-5 rifles and shotguns.
In August 2017, more firearms were stolen from Bellville police station in the Western Cape.
Don’t be lulled into thinking that brazen attacks on police stations are a very recent thing. In 2010, five armed men held up police officers at the Bedwang police station in the North West and made made off with a lot of weapons.
In short, our police officers have been sitting ducks forever.
The thugs that attacked eNgcobo police station, resulting in the deaths of five police officers and a soldier, were not charting new territory in criminal activity. It had been done before. The only difference was there were no casualties before.
South Africans are generally good at being horrified. We do send-offs pretty well.
The minister of police was at the scene in double quick time and special units of all sorts were sent to hunt down the killers. And, sure enough, in less than 72 hours seven suspected criminals had been mowed down.
But that doesn’t change the state of our policing.
Reactive measures only confirm the poor state that our police force is in. It doesn’t help that the political leadership of the police is involved in public grandstanding of the highest order on a daily basis.
One hopes that President Cyril Ramaphosa will make the necessary changes to the police and appoint leadership that will be more concerned with planning ahead to ensure we have a proactive police force that’s a step in front of criminal activity rather than five steps behind as we currently find ourselves.
Apparently the eNgcobo situation had been investigated and a cult identified by the Commission for the Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic rights (CRL).
The leader of the commission, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, is spitting mad that even though they let parliament know that a potentially explosive cult was operating in the area , nothing was done.
This phenomenon of “I told you so” in South African politics is no different from a minister who would rather pose for selfies than provide visionary leadership for the police.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluvu claims parliament did nothing but as a Chapter 9 institution we know her commission has bite and not just bark.
Thuli Madonsela set a wonderful example as a public protector. When ignored by the powers that be, she went to court. We are yet to hear of the action that the CRL took when they felt ignored by parliament.
This country needs to get over its righteous indignation that we seem to automatically turn to whenever heinous and bloodcurdling crimes are perpetrated against cops.
The time is long past for us to continue expecting expletives from a minister when police lives have been lost. Clear plans of action are required to restore the criminals’ fear of the criminal justice system as a whole.
The kind of police bungling and ill-preparedness that led to the Marikana massacre cannot be allowed to happen again simply because “parliament” did nothing.
It is time that specific individuals are held to account when inaction in the face of clear danger leads to the loss of lives.