Police and policing resources are biased in favour of urban precincts and the defense of property as is evident in the recent killing of five cops at Engcobo police station.
Despite the fact that the Ngcobo precinct is in the top ten worst precincts when it comes to murder, sexual offenses and stock theft in the Eastern Cape, the police station is under-resourced. Ngcobo has been in the news lately following the murder of five police officers and a retired soldier who were shot dead when a group of armed men stormed the police station.
According to the latest crime statistics, the Ngcobo precinct showed a total of 3‚270 crimes reported in the 2017 year. These included 77 cases of murder‚ 128 sexual offenses and 107 cases of stock theft which is a big jump from 77 cases in 2008.
Four suspects have appeared in court in connection with the murders. According to the police statement, this was not the first time that cops were attacked in such a brazen manner in Ngcobo. In March last year, police came under attack from about 15 armed robbers who were robbing a Standard Bank ATM. The local police station was also hit.
“There is no one who was injured in that first robbery and there was no arrest. The case was untraced. These police officers that have been killed were not investigating the previous case”, said Eastern Cape police spokesperson, Khaya Thonjeni.
According to Thonjeni, the police station has only 9 detectives. Elitsha also learnt that there are no cameras at the police station, though the need for video surveillance of police was a matter discussed in Parliament in November last year.
“In an effort to ensure successful prosecution, the Committee recommended that the SAPS invests in body-worn cameras for all visible police unit officers and that CCTV cameras must be installed as a matter of priority in all community service centres throughout the country,” reads the statement from the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Francois Beukman.
Thonjeni told Elitsha that the former Police Minister admitted that resources are still skewed in favour of urban police stations. “Our previous minister Fikile Mbalula said government made a huge mistake by focusing on big towns when it comes to installing cameras in police stations. He says now thugs are targeting rural town. But the issue of cameras is going to be sorted out for rural police stations,” he said.
Resident Thembela Ntoyanto (37) says he was very shocked to hear of the killing of the police officers. “These police officers we caught off guard because they were not ready for action. I cannot say they are not well trained because of this incident. These thugs maybe pretended to be people who came to open or to report a case. So obvious the police were not ready for action. That is why these police officers did not fight back,” he said.
Another resident Sikhumbuzo Nasonti (45) similarly questions the preparedness of the police. “How can police die like this? These police from rural towns are not well equipped when it comes to fight with thugs. During the robbery there is no one from the thugs that has been reported as injured. So it is clear that they do not have tactics to deal with thugs. Government must train these police officers. There is a rumour that police went to this church to search for guns that were taken in the previous robbery. So it is alleged these thugs that were not happy about that,” he said.
The alleged suspects are linked to Seven Angel Ministries situated in Nyanga Village a few kilometres from the police station. After a tip off from the community, the police went to search the church. The police came came under fire and responded, killing seven people and arresting four.
The surviving suspects are Siphosomzi Tshevu (23), Andami Monco (30), Siphosihle Tatsi (19) and Kwanele Ndlwame (22).
They each face two counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances and a count of attempted murder. The case has been postponed to 8 March. The suspects remain in custody.