National police commissioner General Bheki Cele has called on officers to use maximum force in the war against criminals.
Speaking at the funerals yesterday of slain Kraaifontein police officers Warrant Officer Gershwin Matthee and Student Constable Cannon Cloete, Cele said: “We are not calling for you to be dogs of war or to be wayward. Do your job. But if someone makes it difficult for you to do that job to a point where your life is in danger, use the tools we have given you. Defend yourself.”
He said that, according to law, police officers were allowed to use “maximum force” in such situations. He also urged them to be “decisive” in their actions when defending themselves.
Matthee, 39, and Cloete, 23, were gunned down while on patrol last Sunday and their firearms were stolen. A Khayelitsha man, Sivuyile Songovana, 23, appeared in court on Friday in connection with the murders, but the police are adamant he was not acting alone.
A few days before Matthee and Cloete were murdered, two KwaZulu-Natal officers were killed in a shooting in Creighton.
Cele said this had been the fifth Saturday in a row that he had attended the funerals of police officers.
“The youth are at war. You can’t have 23-year-olds killing 23-year-olds; that is a crisis,” said Cele, referring to Songovana’s arrest.
“Almost seven police have been killed in the months since January. It’s a crisis.”