Pretoria - The South African Police Services (SAPS) has awarded 16 courageous members for their outstanding efforts in combating cash-in-transit heists.
At a ceremony held in Pretoria on Friday, the officers were presented with certificates of appreciation and cash awards, by Assistant Commissioner Sharon Schutte, Commander of the High Technology Project Centre.
The recognition followed two incidents that were foiled by the SAPS in November and December 2007, in which 16 heavily armed suspects were killed after they exchanged gunfire with police.
Speaking to BuaNews, one of the recipients Captain Kleinkie Mokoena said although he was excited by the award, he was still recovering from the loss of a devoted member who was killed during the November incident.
"I'm happy with the award but I dedicate this award to all the members of the SAPS who passed away while on duty, especially our own Inspector Matthews "Rambo" Mkhwanazi," he said.
The 38-year-old policeman added that being a police officer was not 'merely a job" but a calling to fight crime and make sure that community safety was guaranteed.
In the November incident, members of the High Technology Project Centre, SAPS Air Wing, Crime Intelligence Gathering and Special Task Force cooperated in an operation after an armed gang planned to rob a coin security company in Fountains Circle in Pretoria.
Police intervened after more than 10 heavily armed men using three vehicles attacked the cash-in-transit vehicle. A shoot-out ensued leaving five suspects dead including Inspector Mkhwanazi of the Special Task Force.
Speaking at the ceremony, Commander Schutte said the death of Inspector Mkhwanazi left the SAPS members reeling in shock, adding that it was traumatic and heartbreaking to loose a member on scene.
In the December 2007, incident, a group of heavily armed suspects attacked another coin security vehicle on the R101 in Pretoria North. During the gun battle that ensued between police, security guards and the robbers, 11 suspects were killed and one was arrested.
Commander Schutte said all members involved in the two incidents were rewarded for their diligence and courage-under-fire.