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Speaker’s Notes: Engcobo Memorial Service General KJ Sitole

Eastern Cape 24 February 2018

Programme Director
The Minister of Police, Mr Fikile Mbalula
The Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Phumulo Masualle
MEC of Transport, Ms Weziwe Tikana
Mayor of Engcobo, Councillor Bonga
Deputy National Commissioners, Divisional, Regional and Provincial Commissioners of the SAPS
The Provincial Commissioner of the Eastern Cape, Lieutenant General Ntshinga
All other members of the SAPS
POPCRU and SAPU representatives
Cluster Chairperson of the CPF
Faith-based organisations
Traditional leader/s
The community of Engcobo

And most of all, the families, friends, colleagues and fellow officers of our deceased members

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Molweni. It is with heavy hearts that we have gathered here today.  The Scripture tells us that in our suffering, there is glory, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character, and eventually hope. Sometimes the truth of these words are hard to see. Right now, these words test us because the people of Engcobo, and the people across our country, are suffering.

We are here to honour the memory and mourn the loss of five fellow police officers, to grieve with their loved ones, to support this community, and to pray for the wounded, while we try and find some meaning in our sorrow.

For the men and women in blue who protect and serve the people of Engcobo, last Wednesday began like any other day. Each day, we wear our uniform with pride, kiss our families goodbye, and we go to work to fulfil our constitutional mandate.

Minister, ladies and gentlemen, our work as police officers across the country is like no other. For the moment you put on that uniform, you have answered a call that at any time, even in the briefest interaction, may put your life in danger.

On this dreadful day, the South African Police Service lost five of our own, who had served the nation with integrity and loyalty:

  • Warrant Officer Zuko Mbini served 22 years and 297 days
  • Constable Sibongiseni Sandlana served 10 years and 277 days
  • Constable Zuko Ntsheku served nine years and 48 days
  • Constable Nkosiphendule Pongco served one year and 358 days
  • Constable Kuhle Mateta served one year and 16 days.

These men and their families shared a commitment to something bigger than themselves. They were not looking for fame. They would tell you the pay was decent, but would never make you rich. They could have told you about the stress and the long shifts. And they would probably agree with you, Minister, that police members do not expect to hear the words “thank you” very often, especially from those who need them the most.

No. The reward comes from knowing that our lives are dedicated to serving the citizens of our country, in keeping them safe. And that is what these five men were doing last Wednesday when they were assigned to ensure that the community of Engcobo is safe.

What I am proud of ladies and gentlemen, is that our members died in the firing line for the safety of our communities. We will forever honour their bravery and their ultimate sacrifice.  We salute them!

Annually in September, we commemorate our fallen heroes and heroines and the names of the members we are saying farewell to today, will be included on our roll of honour.

Families, loved ones, friends and colleagues of our late members, we understand and share your grief and pain as we, too, lost members of our large family of blue. We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to each and every one of you, and we pray that with time, there will be healing. Although these brave men are no longer with us, they will forever live in our memories and hearts. We will continue to support the children of our fallen heroes through initiatives such as the South African Police Service Education Trust, which provides educational support to the children of SAPS’s personnel who died in the line of duty.  

In the aftermath of the shooting, we have seen the country and communities from different backgrounds working, not just to restore order and support a shaken province, a shaken department, but working to unify and support the community of Engcobo with strength, grace and wisdom. And in the process, we have been reminded that the South African Police Service has been at the forefront of improving relations between the police and the community.

Ladies and gentlemen, what transpired on that fateful Wednesday, is extremely unfortunate. Let me assure the nation that the SAPS is not intimidated by what transpired here, rather, we are more determined than ever to root out all forms of crime in this country. We will reclaim the authority of the State without hesitation. Therefore, we tracked down those who were responsible for robbing the families, us and the community of our policemen.

We will continue to bring all responsible to book as our investigations unfold, in honour of all men and women who shared a commitment to something bigger and greater than themselves. Our fallen heroes and heroines, may you rest peacefully. We thank you for your devotion and loyalty.  May their loss strengthen our unity as an organisation and as the SAPS’s family. It is not going to be easy, but only love and unity can assist each one of us to live through these difficult times. May God comfort and strengthen you.

Thank you.