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Speaker`s notes : Engcobo by Minister of Police, Bheki Cele

28 February 2018

Madam Speaker of the National Assembly/ Chairperson of the National Assembly
Honorable Ministers Present
Deputy Ministers Present
Honorable Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee
Members of Parliament
Distinguished Guest
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentleman

It is with great sadness and heavy heart that we stand here and tell a story of young SAPS members that we lost at Engcobo. It could be said that for last two weeks we have lost nine members nationally five of them from Engcobo police station, this terrible deed happened on the 20 21 February 2018 between 23h25 on February 20 and early hours of 01h20 on the 21st of February 2018. The police station was attacked and some members were shot and killed. Other police members were ambushed from the same police station shot and killed and dumped on the side of the road. These were young energetic and very healthy bodies with the names of;
* Warrant Officer Zuko Mbini served 22 years and 297 days
* Constable Sibongiseni Sandlana served 10 years and 277 days
* Constable Zuko Ntsheku served nine years and 48 days
* Constable Nkosiphendule Pongco served one year and 358 days
* Constable Kuhle Mateta served one year and 16 days.
* A member of the SANDF lost his life in the tragedy

Adding to the five police officers and a soldier we have also lost three more officers through a motor vehicle accident who were deployed coming from the unit of Potchefstroom in the North West Province. More than that we have lost one Police Officer at Kwa Maphumulo in KZN, who was shot and killed at the mall which brings the total of killed police officers to NINE in a space of two weeks

These brave men and their families shared commitment and something bigger than themselves, they were committed compatriots, committed, to the service and safety of all South Africans, for that they had to pay the supreme price by losing their own lives in the line of duty.

For that we take salute of these fallen heroes of South Africa, we offer them maximum gratitude to their families and loved ones. Life would have been much better had this not happened. Therefore as the South African Police Service we commit ourselves that we will work harder to prevent such tragedies in the future.

None the less this has happened and the SAPS had to respond, their response had to be quick and practical. A multi-disciplinary Task Team, led by Maj Gen Galawe, was established on 21 February 2018 to investigate the matter, comprising of senior members representing the following capabilities: the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), Visible Policing (VISPOL), Crime Intelligence (CI), Detective Service, the National Intervention Unit (NIU), Public Order Policing (POP), Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC) and Special Task Force (STF).

On 22 February 2018, information was received from reliable sources that a certain taxi driver had been observed in possession of a pistol, suspected to have been involved in the shooting at the Engcobo Police Station. The information was immediately followed up, one suspect was subsequently arrested and one Norinco pistol was found in his possession.

A Tactical Team, comprising of members from the STF, NIU, CI, DPCI and the Detective Service was activated to conduct an operation at the church premises. Upon arrival at the premises, the Task Team came under fire from a nearby location and immediately retaliated, resulting in seven suspects being fatally wounded and a further three suspects being wounded. In addition, 37 other male persons found within the shacks from which the gunfire emanated, were arrested. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) was immediately notified of the action taken by the SAPS.

1.1. The following firearms and exhibits were seized during the operation:
* Two shotguns.
* Two rifles.
* Six 9mm pistols.
* Two safes.
* Two laptops.
* One police bullet-resistant vest.
* Four swords.
* Two cross bars.
* Four tempo watches.
* 27 cellular phones.

1.2. All the suspects who were arrested during the operation were questioned and it transpired that only five suspects out of the 37 arrested individuals were involved in the murder of the police officers at the Engcobo Police Station.The identity and age of the aforementioned suspects are as follows:
* Andani Monci- 24 years
* Kwanele Ndlawana- 23 years
* Siphesihle Tatsi- 24 years
* Siphononzi Tshefu- 19 years
* Phumzile Mhlatywa- 45 years

1.3. The confessions made by the above-mentioned suspects, indicated that a group of eight individuals had conspired to rob the Capitec Bank ATM, situated diagonally across the road from the Engcobo Police Station. The police station was identified as an ideal source of firearms and the eight individuals decided to attack the night shift at the police station.

1.4. One of the individuals was tasked to lure the police officers on patrol duties in town, towards the direction of Mthatha. A suitable spot was identified near the Nyanga High School for the rest of the group to lie in ambush for the SAPS patrol van that would be lured out of town. When the first individual arrived in town, he behaved in a manner that was intended to attract the attention of the SAPS members on patrol, however, the members ignored him. He then called his colleagues to inform them that the police were not responding and was then advised to recklessly make a U-turn in front of the officers on patrol, which he subsequently performed.

1.5. The SAPS patrol van pursued the individual to the area near Nyanga High School, stepped out of their vehicle to confront the individual and were subsequently shot by the group lying in ambush. The members` firearms were taken by the attackers.

1.6. The group of individuals returned to Engcobo and went straight to the police station where they shot two members inside the Community Service Centre (CSC), fatally wounding them and removing their firearms. They then commanded the female members that were in the CSC, to open the safe in order to access more firearms.

1.7. While engaged in the process of removing additional firearms, a SAPS patrol van arrived at the station. The group of individuals attacked the driver and his crew, fatally wounding both. The members` firearms were also removed.

1.8. The group then proceeded to the Capitec Bank ATM with the intention of grinding the safe and accessing the money. Whilst grinding the safe, they were disturbed by another SAPS patrol van that came from the Mthatha direction and decided to flee from the scene. The group drove towards the mountain behind Engcobo, where they buried the firearms and discarded the SAPS patrol van and bullet-resistant vests that they had stolen.

1.9. On 22 February 2018, a group of hunters found the shallow trench where the hidden firearms were buried. The group of attackers confronted the hunters and removed the firearms to their place of residence. They marked some of these firearms with red paint and then hid them until Friday night, when they were confronted by the SAPS Task Team and the firearms were seized.

1.10.All suspects not positively linked to a crime were released and five suspects appeared in court on 25 February 2018. Three of the deceased persons encountered at the Seven Angels Church have been positively linked to this case.

1.11.The discarded bullet-resistant vests were recovered where they were disposed of by the attackers. Forensic examinations on all the exhibits, including DNA and ballistics analyses, are underway to further link the arrested suspects and the deceased suspects.

1.12. The case has been remanded to 8 March 2018, for a formal bail application. All five accused are in SAPS custody. Further investigations and follow-ups are in progress.

1.13. The National Commissioner has ordered the deployment of additional reinforcements to the Engcobo area. These additional deployments have been sourced from the national office and various areas in the province. Proactive deployments include VISPOL, POP, TRT, the NIU and STF. Reactive deployments include the DPCI, Detective Service, Tracking Teams and the Forensic Services.

1.14. The community of Engcobo and surrounding areas are assured, that day-to-day policing will be maintained, at the required level and professionalism.

Out of the ten stolen guns nine have been recovered. The ninth one was recovered last night the entire operation is led by DPCI HAWKS. The commissioner will be keeping these forces at the community of Engcobo until the situation stabilizes, we will be going back there after the funerals and make an assessment, if it needs be, extend the operations

We would like to thank the community of Engcobo which has cooperated very well with SAPS and make sure that the results are quick.

For now we have no church there, we have a crime scene, which will be determined by ongoing investigation if it remains a church or perished as a permanent crime scene.

We want to make it very clear that the SAPS are not the undertaker company; we resist to burry our members. I WANT TO ISSUE A STRONG WARNING that any military engagement by the thugs engaging SAPS should be one side that goes to bury after engagement and that side shall not the South African Police Service

I thank you

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