SAPS commemorates fallen heroes, heroines

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pretoria - “My heart broke when I heard the news that he had passed on. But everything happens according to God’s timing.”

These are the words of Alpheus Ngoepe, who lost his firstborn son, police Constable Harry Ngoepe, while he was on duty on 18 November 2013.

Constable Ngoepe, who was stationed in Boksburg in Gauteng’s East Rand, was 29-years-old when he was shot and killed.

“It is not easy to accept [his death],” said Ngoepe, who attended the South African Police Service (SAPS) National Commemoration Day at the Union Buildings on Sunday.

The National Commemoration Day honours the men and women in blue who have lost their lives while on duty. Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014 a total 68 police officers were killed in the line of duty.

“Today we are united in sadness. Today 68 names have been newly etched on the memorial wall,” said Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.

Last year’s ceremony commemorated 76 police officers.

“To the families of the 68 police employees whom we commemorate today, whose names have been etched on this wall, we grieve with you. We also celebrate your loved ones’ lives with you and we urge you to remember that they died while serving their country and their countrymen.

“They are true heroes and heroines,” said the Minister.

The day, among other things, comprises of laying wreaths at the SAPS memorial site by the Minister, Deputy Minister Maggie Sotyu, National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega and the family members of fallen officers.

For some family members the ceremony brought tears to their eyes, for others it brought a sense of closure.

“Today we feel happy because we felt comforted,” said Cecilia Thobela, whose youngest brother, Constable Bheki Thobela, was shot and killed in the line of duty in Secunda, Mpumalanga in August 2013.

She said Thobela had left behind three children.

Minister Nhleko said it was the department’s duty to ensure that the families of fallen members were taken care of. “Losing a loved one suddenly and under violent circumstances is a hugely traumatic experience,” he said.

The SAPS’s Education Trust was a shining example of SAPS’s commitment to the men and women in blue. The formation of the trust was announced four years ago and has now become a reality. 

The trust provides financial assistance to the children of members who die in the performance of their duties by financing the cost of their educational needs.

It is funded by gifts, donations and sponsors from private persons, families and companies.

“Already a group of children of our fallen members have benefited through the trust and it has made a significant difference in their lives,” said the Minister.

He said Commemoration Day was a reminder of the extremely dangerous circumstances that police members work under.

“It is the duty of every law-abiding citizen who suspects that a police killer is living in their neighbourhood to blow the whistle. As a nation we must stand together and say ‘no more’.”

He said these criminals lived among communities and it did not made sense to hide or shield them.

Commissioner Phiyega urged South Africans to speak out against police killings.

“Let us do so in memory of those who have already died fighting for us,” she said.

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