President Cyril Ramaphosa joined families of slain police officers at the annual South African Police Service Commemoration Day on Sunday , 5 September 2021. The event took place at the South African Police Service (SAPS) Memorial Site at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Here is the President’s address:
Programme Director,Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele,Deputy Minister of Police, Mr Cassel Mathale, National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, General Khehla Sitole, Generals and senior management of the SAPS, Members of the SAPS,Families of our fallen heroes,Representatives of the South African Police Service Education Trust, Representatives of Labour Unions, Guests, Fellow South Africans,
I convey my heartfelt greetings to you all this morning.
We have gathered here on this National Police Commemoration Day to pay tribute to our fallen men and women in blue. We salute all members of the SAPS who lost their lives in the line of duty between the 1st of April 2020 and the 31st of March 2021. They were colleagues, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, loving fathers, caring mothers, neighbours and friends. They will be deeply missed.
Occasions such as this are a stark reminder of the perils our men and women in uniform face as they carry out their duty to serve our country and protect its people. We fully understand the anxiety that accompanies the knowledge that you could leave your home for work, never again to return. The passing of these heroes and heroines in the line of duty must sharpen the resolve of those who remain in the police service to proudly and bravely continue the noble cause to guarantee the safety and security of all South Africans.
Today we salute all who work in the SAPS, putting the safety and security of their fellow citizens above their own. Yours is indeed a difficult calling that demands selflessness.
Unfortunately we have some in our society who have absolutely no regard for the patriotic duty discharged by our police officers. These are the people who attack our men and women in uniform and thus undermine the authority of the democratic state. Today we cherish the memories of 34 members who paid the ultimate price for their commitment and determination to serve the South African people.
I also wish to take this moment to pay tribute to the 840 men and women in blue, as well as support staff, who succumbed to COVID-19 since its outbreak early last year. It is important that we remember them because as we urged everyone to stay home as part of our fight against the deadly virus, police officers were in the streets enforcing the lockdown regulations for the safety of all South Africans.
May their spirits rest in eternal peace. As the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to improvise and devise means to co-exist with the coronavirus. The virtual format of this year’s Commemoration Service is itself evidence of such improvisation.
It is my hope that those families outside of Gauteng who cannot be at the Union Buildings physically and who have joined us virtually will find comfort in the determination of the SAPS to honour their fallen heroes against all odds. Nothing can ever take away the pain of losing a loved one. And yet amid the despair and sorrow, there is a firm determination that the lives lost should not be dishonoured.
Let us today thank our fallen heroes and heroines posthumously for their sacrifices. Let us cherish the memories they have left behind whether as family members or colleagues. Quite understandably, some of us here may still be angry and hurt by the manner in which our loved ones perished. I want to urge everyone today that in the memory of our departed loved ones, let us transform that anger and hurt into a sense of determination to jointly rid our streets of all forms of crime.
To all our men and women in blue, I call on you to honour your departed colleagues by remaining vigilant at all times and ensuring that no police officer dies at the hands of criminals. You must implement the Police Safety Strategy and – within the confines of the law –defend your own lives and the lives of our law abiding citizens. I also want to call upon the public to partner with the police in the fight against crime.
It is because of structures such as the Community Police Forums that police, the SANDF and other law enforcement agencies were able to contain the violence and looting that erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July. Criminals live with us and among us in our communities.
We must therefore work towards strengthening community-police relations and bring strategic stakeholders on board to bolster the efforts of police to bring down the levels of serious and violent crime. I believe that the arrest of one hardened criminal, or even the recovery of one illegal firearm could spare the life of one police officer.
Let us as civilians therefore get into the habit of reporting crime and making our voices heard. The perpetrators of these attacks on police must be found and brought to book. The fight against crime cannot be won by the police on their own. Let us all present here today make a renewed commitment to unite and work together to ensure that those who are responsible for crime pay for their deeds.
The debt of gratitude we owe our fallen men and women in blue is eternal. It can only be repaid by the full attainment of the highest ideals for which they laid down their lives. We salute our fallen heroes and heroines. Long may their memories live on in our hearts and in our actions. I thank you.
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