He was addressing a sombre audience – including the families of slain officers – at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, marking the annual SA Police Service (SAPS) national commemoration day in honour of police officers killed in the line of duty.
“I have directed the Minister of Police [Nathi Nhleko] to do everything possible to provide the police with the tools they need to fight crime effectively, and to protect themselves. A national tactical response plan has been developed to immediately respond effectively to the murders of police officers,” said Zuma.
“We urge you to defend yourselves with everything at your disposal if you are attacked, within the confines of the law. Our laws allow the police to fight back decisively when their lives or those of the public are threatened.”
He said criminals should realise police officers were not “sitting ducks”, and would fight back when their lives or those of the public were in danger.
A total of 58 police officers have been killed since January this year – 27 on duty and 31 off-duty. “A total of 63 officers were killed on duty between April 2014 and March 2015. Even the death of one police officer would be one too many and would be unacceptable,” Zuma said.
Most of the murdered police officers were breadwinners and their deaths had left distressed dependents. He urged communities to contribute to the creation of a more conducive environment for police to fight crime “decisively”.
“The criminals who terrorise communities, and who kill our police officers as well, live in our communities and are known by many within communities. They must not be protected. They must be reported to the police so that they can face the full might of the law,” said Zuma.
He also urged the public not to buy stolen goods, often sold at reduced prices by criminals. “When people buy stolen goods, they create a market for criminals and put the lives of all in the country, including our police officers, in danger. Stop buying stolen goods, whether these are cars, television sets, or cellphones, and close the market for criminals.”
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega were also present. Wreaths were laid at the memorial in commemoration of the police “fallen heroes”.