The National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega says she will “not allow South Africa to degenerate into a Mexico”.
Riah pledged to fight the scourge of police killings after Siphiwo Zondani was yesterday sentenced in the High Court in Cape Town to life imprisonment for the murder of Detective Constable Mthetheleli Gunya, 38.
Phiyega was speaking after she officially launched “Operation Stopper” in Cape Town’s Nyanga township, dubbed South Africa’s murder capital.
She said the Western Cape had lost more police officers than any other province last year.
“I actually did the averages. One would say we were losing something like one-and-a-half police officers per month. This year it is Gauteng. We will be out there, taking policing to the criminals. We shall not allow South Africa to degenerate into a Mexico.”
The court handed down a life sentence to Zondani, 31, for killing Gunya while he was arresting Zondani’s friend in October last year.
Judge Elize Steyn sentenced Zondani to a further 10 years for attempting to kill Gunya’s colleague, Constable Vuyolwethu Mantashe, and five years for possession of an illegal firearm.
“It cannot be ignored that it is reported on a daily basis that attacks on police officers are escalating in the Western Cape. I understand this is one of three matters involving the shooting of police officers in this court at present,” said Steyn.
“I have to consider the interests of the community. Criminals cannot be allowed to be given free rein to use firearms and violence in attacks on society and especially the protectors of society, the police, in execution of their duties.
“Criminals will have no respect for law and order or the police if they are not properly punished.
“The community will lose respect for the legal system if they are not adequately protected by appropriate sentences for criminals who have no regard for the important task of police officers in maintaining law and order in our society.”
Gunya’s brother, Solethu, said: “We have forgiven (Zondani) as a family. The sentence can’t satisfy me because it will not bring my brother back.”
Gareth Newham, head of governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, said research on this issue shows that most killings of on-duty police officers occurs when they confront armed criminals, who then shoot the officer to avoid arrest.