Remarks by the Minister of Police, E.N. Mthethwa, MP at the SAPS National Commemoration Day, Union Buildings, Pretoria, Gauteng
Minister of State Security, Dr Siyabonga Cwele;
All MECs responsible for policing present;
National Commissioner of Police, General Riah Phiyega;
Acting Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Police, Ms Annelise Van Wyk;
All SAPS Lieutenant Generals, Senior officers and Staff present;
Families, Relatives, Friends and Colleagues of our Fallen Heroes;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
On March 2 1977, one of our revolutionary young lions Solomon Mahlangu was sentenced to death by hanging by the apartheid regime. When he heard his sentence, he shouted: “Amandla! Power!” Indeed, his cause wielded power.
On April 6 1979, 23-year old Mahlangu faced the gallows, raised his hand in salute, and met his death at the hands of a racist regime. His final words are reputed to have been: ‘My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight.’
We stand here today on this National Commemoration Day, on behalf of the leadership, management and staff of the South African Police Service (SAPS), with our hearts filled with grief and sadness. We gather this morning with these words still lingering vividly in our minds that we must continue to fight.
This time, however, the fight is not against an enemy of apartheid but against the evil scourge of crime. This is a scourge that robs families of their loved ones as well as weakening the SAPS of its dedicated men and women in blue. It becomes a tragic loss to the families of our police officers and South Africa.
This morning we bow our heads in respect and honour to 92 police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, from 1st April 2011 to 31 March 2012. As law-abiding South Africans, we are saying we shall never forget their dedication and contribution to the just cause of human stability.
Whilst remembrance of a loved one is a significant heartfelt expression, we challenge all South Africans to go beyond remembrance. We call upon all law-abiding citizens of our nation, to pledge and demonstrate through actions, that as society you shall endeavour to also protect our police officers against vicious criminals.
Policing remains a very difficult and challenging duty. Almost on a daily basis our members face dangerous and vicious criminals, who will not hesitate to kill our officers or even law-abiding citizens.
We want to highlight this reality to all South Africans so that as they criticize police, they should do so having a clearer understanding of environments within which police operate. We are saying appreciate our men and women in blue whilst they are still alive.
We reiterate that the killing of our police officers is a direct threat to our hard-won Constitutional democracy; a threat that should not be taken lightly by society. On this occasion we are making a clarion call to all South Africans to play an active role in the fight against crime. The preventive capacity on crime lies with the rest of society.
Following a National Summit against attacks and killing of police officials held in 2011, we have since outlined and are currently implementing the 10-Point Plan. In essence our objectives with this plan seek to find solutions from across all sectors of society on what needs to be done to eradicate these killings.
We remain confident that we shall win this war; a war which by the way has been declared by criminals on society and police. Our society, together with its governance institutions, must unite in action and engage in a concerted and sustained effort aimed at ensuring a progressive reduction in crime levels.
In an effort to realize this objective, the Ministry of Police has taken a conscious effort to interact and work with different partners and other organs of society, with a view to improving social participation and dialogue on the country’s safety and security vision, plans and programmes. This effort will also help us to tap onto the collective wisdom of all the people of our land to enhance existing crime prevention programmes and seek cooperative, innovative and creative solutions to crime and safety challenges.
We have been given a daunting task of ensuring that society remains safe against criminals. This is a mandate we need to carry with dedication. And today, albeit on a sad occasion such as this, this presents a renewal for all of us to re-double our efforts in the fight against crime.
We would be failing in our duty if we do not reiterate the call we made to management around improving our members’ human resource programmes. This HR focus speaks of efficient service delivery, from recruitment to retirement. We must reward excellence to members whilst they are serving.
We shall persist in addressing the dangers that face our members on a daily basis and to find ways to protect them. To this end, we have tasked police management to ensure that safety measures are adhered to, for example, wearing of bullet proof vests when responding to crime callouts. We must ensure that our officers receive ongoing counseling as we all recognize that policing is a difficult task, a task that cannot be taken lightly.
We need to fast-track processing of pension funds that are due to the families of the departed, we need to ensure that their educational needs are adequately addressed. We want to correct the mistakes of the past by ensuring that surviving family members are accorded their benefits on time, seamlessly and fairly. We dare not fail.
A lot of detailed work continues to be done to deal with the various aspects of these challenges. These would include the focus on detectives, stabilization of the intelligence environment, the focus on training, the management structure of the SAPS, and so on.
Today, we are paying tribute to the commitment of the men and women in blue to shall whose memories shall forever linger in our hearts. In their memories, we are intent on channeling our energies around fighting crime, in partnership with our communities.
All the many police officers present at this commemoration and across the length and breadth of our land, we owe a huge duty to these fallen heroes. Let their passing not be in vain. As committed servants of the country, you must remain steadfast on your conviction, on your bias towards the weak and intensify the war against heartless criminals.
Despite everything that has been said, we can be bold in stating that a lot of good work is being done in all areas. The consistent downward trend of crime statistics bears testimony to this fact. Nevertheless, we need to do much more. This is how we can best commemorate these departed heroes and heroines.
We are here commemorating these fallen heroes, who, in the words of Solomon Mahlangu, sacrificed their lives. Their blood is nourishing the fruits of democracy we enjoy today. They chose to protect. They chose to serve and not be served.
May their souls rest in peace. We shall never forget their contribution to the safety of the citizens of our land.
I thank you.