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Address by Lieutenant General Mgwenya: the murder of members of the SAPS and its impact on the Organisation Policing Seminar: Southern Business School Krugersdorp, Gauteng


Gauteng, 18 September 2018

Programme Director
Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for affording me this opportunity to address you on the sensitive issue of the murder of our South African Police Service members and the impact it has on the organisation.

First of all, I want to assure you that the safety and well-being of all members and employees of the SAPS, our most valued resource, remains a top priority to management.

Section 205 (3) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa dictates that it is the duty of the South African Police Service to prevent, combat and investigate crime, uphold and enforce the law, maintain public order and protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic of South Africa.

Fulfilling this mandate unfortunately subjects our members to working in a challenging environment, fraught with risk.  They daily have to face dangerous situations and armed criminals in order to serve and protect.  At our recent Commemoration Day event, we honoured 29 members who were murdered in the line of duty during the past financial year, 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.  Each one was executing their Constitutional mandate when they were ruthlessly killed.  56 of our members were murdered whilst off duty, bringing the total of SAPS members murdered in one year to 85.

I would like to refer and quote from an article by Professor Herman Conradie from UNISA, published in “The Indian Police Chief, Vol 47, Nos. 2&3, April-September 2000”on the extent of police killings in South Africa versus international trends.

“Murdering of police officials in South Africa have become endemic during the nineties. Each year since 1993 more than 200 killings occurred. This is in sharp contrast with the annual average of 67 murders of police officials in the United states of America, calculated over a period of 50 years, starting from 1945 through 1994 (Chapman 1998:3). Furthermore, the continuous killing of police officials since the inauguration of the democratic political dispensation in South Africa, did not make sense at all. Before the new democratic dispensation one could have argued, as many did, that the police officials are the strong arm of the oppressive government. One has to agree with Chapman’s (1998:73) statement that attacks on police officials are in fact attacks on the governmental authority because they are the visible and accessible representatives of the government” (Conradie 2000:47-57).

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to reduce the number of police officials murdered in the line of duty to naught.  As the Minister of Police said recently, “Police members are a national asset and they need to be protected by all of us. One police killing is one to many.  My wish is for events of this nature to never happen”.

The murder of SAPS’s members in particular, has a negative impact on -

  • The communities’ perceptions of safety and security
  • The morale of SAP’s members
  • A loss of valuable, skilled human resources to effectively fight crime
  • The loss of beloved family members to the dependents of these police officials.

These senseless acts of violence demand that all role players must intensify their efforts, although much has already been done.  During 2011 the Ministry of Police and the former National

Commissioner of the South African Police Service, General BH Cele (now the Minister of Police) delared that attacks on and murders of police members, on and off duty, are of grave concern.

This led to the Minister of Police hosting a Summit against attacks on and murders of police members during July 2011.

During the Summit the following ten point plan was adopted to address the attacks on and murders of police members in the South African Police Service:

  • Establish a Multi-Disciplinary Committee within the SAPS;
  • Review of the 2000 Ministerial task team;
  • Police Killings, a priority agenda for the JCPS and Cabinet;
  • Psychological and Human Resource Support for familie and colleagues;
  • Improve training of police officers;
  • Strengthen partnership with researchers;
  • Hold Provincial Summits to mobilise communities;
  • Adopt a Cop campaign;
  • Review of the SAPS Annual   Commemoration for fallen  heroes; and
  • Fly National Flags at police stations at half-mast in honour of police officers killed in the line of duty.

One of the deliverables in the adopted ten-point plan was the establishment of a multi-disciplinary committee within the SAPS in order to support an integrated and coherent approach to address the well-being of all employees as a priority.

In addition, the establishment of a dedicated capacity under the Visible Policing Division to deal with police safety, was approved and implemented.  A comprehensive Police Safety Strategy was developed, spearheaded by this Division to strengthen and ensure the safety of all members based on the following five pillars:

  • Governance to establish a standardised regulatory environment to ensure police safety as a priority.
  • Proactive interventions to reduce attacks and non-natural deaths of police members.
  • Reactive interventions to ensure arrest and conviction of offenders, and restore confidence in the CJS and serve as a deterrent.
  • Redress and support interventions for members and families.
  • Monitoring and evaluation to inform prevention, responses, redress and support interventions and to determine whether the strategy is effective in reducing unnatural deaths of police members.

Focus areas include an integrated approach to address police safety through community awareness and mobilisation, as well as interdepartmental cooperation in an effort to expedite court processes, ensure harsher sentences for the murderers of police members and facilitating policy or law reform to define the murder of an on-duty police officer as a crime against the State.

Additional measures include:

  • Adopting an employee life-cycle management approach (recruitment to retirement), by addressing the recruitment of disciplined, physically and mentally fit police officers,
  • Providing appropriate training (operationally ready and in-service training to address risk factors, as well as the maintenance and transfer of skills)
  • Ensuring that members are appropriately and adequately resourced, including the implementation of safety measures
  • Research into the latest technology and equipment for police safety
  • Strengthening and sustaining the informed and intelligence-driven deployment of operationally ready members in accordance with Police Prescripts as well as ensuring compliance to such prescripts
  • Strengthening employee health and wellness through the presentation of specific programmes.

Ladies and gentlemen, the SAPS also devised a Pocket Safety Guide, which provides for the use of basic safety principles in the police’s day-to-day operational functioning to address identified risk factors, which has been distributed to our members.

Thorough risk management procedures have been implemented to reduce the murder of and attacks on SAPS members, on and off duty. Police safety assessments to identify specific risks are conducted at police stations. Quarterly National Police Safety Committee meetings are facilitated at divisional level to synergise, exchange and compare data on police deaths and identified risk factors, including sharing docket analysis and the investigation of cases by the DPCI and the Detectives.

All station and unit commanders must implement contingency plans to determine the required conduct when backup deployment or support is required during dangerous and medium to high risk situations encountered by police members at police station level, as well as during an attack on a member or police station.

The National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, General Khehla Sitole, has recently requested the review of the Police Safety Strategy in order to enhance police safety, which is outlined in the Turnaround Vision of the SAPS. 

The Strategy has already been reviewed and circulated internally for inputs and comments.  General Sitole has also approved the establishment of national task teams to research and investigate the use of technology and an improved bullet resistant vest for members of the Service.

Distinguished guests, every year, we dedicate the month of September as Police Safety month and on the first Sunday of September, the South African Police Service remembers our police officials who sacrificed their lives in the execution of their duties.  This is a solemn occasion as on this day, families, loved ones and colleagues of the deceased members come together to mourn and to pay our last respects to our heroes and heroines in blue, and to etch their names on the Memorial wall. Our annual Commemoration Day is a stark reminder of the high price our men and women in blue pay for the safety of our nation and the danger, challenges and obstacles that they have to face in order to do so.

As mentioned, this year we sadly have to witness the families of 29 of our colleagues laying wreaths in memory of their loved ones at the Memorial wall, some accompanied by elderly parents so distraught and devastated that they could barely stand. The killing of our police members is not only impacting on the SAPS as an organisation but on families and households that are left behind without fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers.

Policing is a job or career like no other, as it is only a patriotic individual with special  commitment that can heed to the calling of being a police official, despite knowing that they will encounter life threatening situations in answering that call.

As the SAPS we condemn the attacks on and the murder of any police official in the strongest terms possible, and we will continue to pursue those who are guilty of these heinous crimes against our police members. We call on all communities to support us and unite in working together to bring this scourge to an end, and to foster a general culture where everyone appreciates, values and protects our men and women in blue.

Ladies and gentlemen, the National Development Plan, also known as Vision 2030, is very clear on what we need to work towards - by 2030, we need to ensure that all people living in South Africa feel safe, not only in their homes, but at schools and at work and they must be able to walk freely on the streets without fear of becoming victims of crime. If we are able to provide for safer communities, we will be building a better South Africa, a better Africa and a better world.

In order to achieve this, we also need to ensure the safety of our law enforcement officers who work tirelessly, 24 hours a day, so that all in South Africa feel and are safe.

In conclusion, it is evident that much has been done in an effort to curb attacks on and the murder of our police officials, but there are no quick fix solutions to these challenges that we face.

The processes we implemented, are gradually yielding some success, but more needs to be done to achieve our objectives.

The policing philosophy is primarily embedded in the close cooperation between the police and all spheres of society. The active involvement of community structures on all levels, will eventually contribute to end this problem and to decrease crime in general.


“Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world”,

Nelson Mandela.

 I thank you.