Criminals must have “no space to operate in”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has issued a call to the South African Police Service (SAPS) to demonstrate that they can take on criminals and protect South Africans as well as the authority of the state.

The President was speaking on Sunday at the SAPS National Commemoration Day honouring the lives of police officials and reservists who died in the line of duty between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023.

President Ramapohosa’s call comes just two days after some 18 suspects – who were allegedly planning a cash in transit heist – were killed during a shootout with police in Limpopo.

“We must all unite and work together to ensure we leave no space for criminals to operate in. The time has come for the police to demonstrate to the South African people that indeed, we can gird our loins and indeed we can take on these criminals. Just like the police did in Limpopo 48 hours ago.

“It is now time to show that the authority of the state cannot be disrespected. It cannot and must not be disregarded. The authority of the state is the authority of the people of South Africa as a whole. We are the people.

“Therefore anyone who disrespects and disregards the people of South Africa collectively, under the umbrella of the state, must know that they’ve crossed the line and we will not allow them to do as they wish and we will not allow them to kill those whose job is to protect, defend the people of South Africa,” he said.

The President told the gathering that deadly attacks on police officers are once more on the rise.

“The Constitution mandates police to prevent, combat and investigate crime. It mandates them to maintain public order and protect the inhabitants of the Republic and their property. Theirs is the noble duty of ensuring that all people in South Africa are safe and feel safe.

“The officers we are commemorating today lost their lives to criminals who have no regard for the rule of law. The increase in the killings of police officers, whether on or off duty, demonstrates the level of desperation of criminals to remove any obstacle that is in the way of their criminal intent. Attacks on police officers must come to an end,” President Ramaphosa said.

Honouring fallen heroes and heroines

Some 34 police officials and reservists were honoured during the commemoration ceremony with their names etched on the Memorial Wall at the Union Buildings in Tshwane.

President Ramaphosa assured that “there must be justice and there will be justice for the families of our fallen heroes and heroines”.

“The hard work of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, known as the Hawks, has resulted in the arrest of 76 suspected police murderers over the past year. These cases are currently before different courts.

“A total of 488 suspects have been arrested for deaths of police officers since 2018. Through diligent investigative work, nine convicted police killers were handed down nine life sentences, a sum total of 158 years imprisonment. We must continue to arrest, prosecute and convict those who wilfully undermine the authority of state.

“The members we are remembering today were spouses, parents, sons and daughters, siblings, colleagues, and so much more. Many of them were breadwinners. Although the convictions of these criminals can never bring their loved ones back, it will comfort them knowing that justice has been served,” he said.

The President passed on his condolences to the families that lost loved ones while serving the South African public through their work.

“On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, we thank the 34 fallen heroes and heroines posthumously for their bravery and service to the country, which they rendered diligently.

“We want to thank their families who supported them throughout their careers in the SAPS, for having been their strength, their support and their comfort. To the families of the fallen officers, we pray that you find peace and healing.

“May their souls rest in peace,” President Ramaphosa said.

Source: South African Government News Agency