National police commissioner General Khehla Sitole has appointed a task team to investigate an attack on a police station in the Eastern Cape.
At least six people‚ including police officers‚ were killed after a shooting at the police station in Ngcobo between Mthatha and Queenstown on Wednesday morning.
“I am appalled and deeply saddened by the cold and callous attack on our colleagues this morning‚” Sitole said.
“I have activated a task team comprising of experienced detectives of the South African Police Service and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation [Hawks] to investigate this attack.”
The task team will be supported by specialised medium to high-risk units‚ with the added support of the air wing.
“We will not rest until we have tracked down these heartless killers and bring them to book‚” Sitole said.
National police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said an unknown number of armed suspects entered the police station and started shooting at members on duty.
Three members died instantly and an off-duty soldier was also killed as the suspects fled.
“The suspects made off with a police van taking two other members. The bodies of both these members with gunshot wounds were later found along the roadside‚ 6km from the police station‚” he said
“According to preliminary investigations‚ it appears that members were shot execution style. While the motive for this attack is not clear yet we have established that the suspects have a robbed an ATM a short distance away from the police station‚ stolen 10 firearms as well as a police van from the station.”
Police minister Fikile Mbabula called for calm from police members.
“I am aware of how emotional this horrific incident is. Today I have instructed General Khlehla Sitole to hunt those barbaric criminals and bring them to book. They must regret the day they sat and planned to attack the state,” he said.
“There are very dangerous criminals. I urge people to remain vigilant and calm and report any possible suspicion to the police.”
DA shadow MEC for safety and security in the Eastern Cape said the DA, too, condemned the killings.
“The SAPS are our front line against criminal elements. They are what stands between us and anarchy. The SAPS are a key element in ensuring safer communities,” he said.
“No stone must be left unturned in hunting down these criminals and ensuring that they are brought to justice. The Eastern Cape stands with the SAPS in this time of great sorrow and grief.”
ANC spokesman in the Eastern Cape, Gift Ngqondi, said the party sent its condolences to the families of the police officers, “most of whom were breadwinners”.
“This continued spate of police killings simply means that is no longer a matter for the minister of police Fikile Mbabula and police commissioner General Khehla Sitole, but a huge societal challenge,” he said.
“Countless dedicated officers have lost their lives at the mercy of criminals wielding illegal firearms. They have taken it upon themselves to butcher the very people who are protecting our communities, and therefore attempting to render our communities as criminal blisses.”
Nqgondi called on communities in and around Engcobo to report any information which “could lead to the arrests of these thugs”.
The proliferation of firearms and the use of illegal firearms in the attacks of police officers is an issue of high concern to all of us
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stop on 086 00 10111.
Callers may remain anonymous and all information will be treated in the strictest of confidence.