JOHANNESBURG- National Commissioner General Khehla Sitole, has applauded the speedy take-down of the alleged suspects of the Engcobo Police Station massacre following a deadly a shootout at a church in the area.
“I am extremely proud of the entire investigation team as well as the medium to high-risk teams for their unwavering commitment to this case,” said Sitole.
“While I have welcomed the outcome of this tireless investigation, I feel that this is still a little comfort for the families, relatives, and colleagues that are mourning the passing of Warrant Officer Sibongiseni Sandlana, Warrant Officer Zuko Mbini, Constables Kuhle Mathetha, Nkosiphendulo Pongco and Zuko Ntsheku.”
The officers were gunned down in the early hour of Wednesday at a police station. A group of armed suspects allegedly entered the Engcobo Police Station and without warning, randomly opened fire on the members on duty.
Three officers were killed instantly in the Community Service Centre. The suspects then allegedly shot dead a retired soldier outside the police station. The suspects thereafter made off in a police van taking two other members whose bodies were later found with gunshot wounds approximately six kilometers from the police station.
Following the attack, Sitole established a task team comprising of experienced detectives of the South African Police Service and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) supported by the SAPS medium to high-risk teams and vowed that police will not rest until these perpetrators were tracked down and brought to book.
The suspects were found hiding in a church in the community and a gun battle ensued. Seven of the suspects were shot and killed while some managed to escape.
“When these suspects were cornered in a cluster dwelling late last night (Friday) by the elite Special Task Force (STF), the National Intervention Unit (NIU), the Tactical Response Team (TRT) other teams of the SAPS, they [the suspects] attempted to fight their way to freedom through a gun battle. The shootout left seven suspects dead and a police officer from the SAPS Special Task Force wounded. The team subsequently recovered at least 10 firearms including rifles, shotguns, and pistols. I am extremely overwhelmed and indeed grateful for the extreme condemnation of the killing of our officers as well as the continued support by all sectors of society via several media platforms,” said Sitole.
He urged communities to continue supporting the police in the fight against crime. Sitole added that the responsibility to make South Africa a safer place lies with them.
“Information on crime before and after it happens may be communicated to the SAPS Crime Stop number 086 00 10111. Callers may remain anonymous and all information will be treated in the strictest of confidence,” he said.
Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle also applauded the police for their swift action to apprehend the suspect Masualle also appealed to the communities to continue working with police to arrest the rest of the suspects who managed to escape.
“We commend the quick and decisive breakthrough of the SAPS and the HAWKS in the case, we have learnt that upon arrival at the church where the suspects were hiding out, police were engaged in a serious fire-fight with the suspects. A number of them were killed by the police, while others managed to escape. We are also happy with the arrests that have been made, and urge the public, without whom this breakthrough by the police would not have been possible, to come forward with the relevant information to authorities for the capture of those who remain at large,” Masualle said.
Masualle will be visiting the families of the deceased as well as attend a memorial service of the slain police officers in Ngcobo on Tuesday the 27th of February 2018.