The recent upsurge in the number of murdered police officers – more than 60 since the beginning of this year – is a crisis that deserves the urgent attention of all.
On Tuesday, Dobsonville residents gathered at Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto to bid farewell to two slain local police officers. Warrant Officer Samuel Mchizama and Constable Solly Maluleke are the latest victims of cop killings. The pair died in the line of duty last week, bringing the total number of police killed this year to 62.
The investigators were shot and killed by a group of eight men. Two of the eight suspects believed to have been involved in the shooting were subsequently shot and killed by police last Thursday. No amount of condolences and statements expressing regret will fill the void left by the loss of fathers, husbands, mothers, wives, sisters and brothers.
While no stone must be left unturned to bring to book the killers of our men and women in blue, I found some of the reaction on social media to the gunning down by police of the two suspects believed to have been involved in the shooting of the two Dobsonville cops highly disturbing. Many hailed police for killing the pair, with one bureaucrat labelling the two suspects “dogs”.
All law-abiding South Africans who value the service and sacrifice of many officers to keep us safe on our streets and in our homes have every right to be enraged by the massacre of our protectors. Yes, we all are gatvol with crime. But we must always uphold the principle of the right of suspects to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate, which is reportedly investigating the circumstances of the killing of the two suspected cop killers, will hopefully shed some light on the deaths of the two men. If the pair did indeed pose an immediate threat to the lives of the officers at the scene, then police had no option but to defend themselves.
However, if it is revealed that the officers at the scene used excessive force to avenge the death of their colleagues, then appropriate steps must be taken against them. Such barbaric acts of state violence can never be tolerated in a country in which the rule of law reigns supreme. We are a constitutional democracy and cannot use unconstitutional means to deal with criminals.
The excessive use of lethal force will only contribute to an atmosphere of impunity and promote lawlessness. However, like all of us, police have a right to life and they, too, have every right to defend themselves. No armed thug who poses a threat to a police officer must be shown any mercy. Every effort should be made to seek solutions from across all sectors of society on what needs to be done to eradicate these attacks and killings of officers.
In the meantime, we should all stand up and send an eloquent message to ruthless bandits that killing a cop is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Enough is enough.