The officers had been searching for housebreaking suspects in the area, Zululand Observer reported.
Two of the police officers were critically injured when community members shot at and assaulted them with bricks before robbing them of their service weapons.
One of the three officers managed to request backup during the attack and other police officers came to their rescue.
Three suspects were arrested and they were found in possession of unlicensed firearms with serial numbers filed off.
Police said the recovered firearms would be sent for ballistics testing to ascertain whether they were used in the commission of any other crime in the country.
One of the suspects was charged for attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances, and appeared in the eShowe Magistrate’s Court on Monday morning.
The other suspects remain in the eShowe District Hospital under police guard, after sustaining injuries in the shootout.
“It is unacceptable that members of this community chose to protect criminals and turned on officers of the law instead,” said provincial commissioner, Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni.
Ealier this year three policemen and a fourth man were attacked by residents near Witlaagte in Mpumalanga.
The man was assaulted after locals accused him of being a drug user and thief and when police intervened people threw stones at them.
– Caxton News Service