End of the road for cop killers

2008-09-16 00:00

POLICE in KZN seem to be heeding the recent call of Safety and Community Liaison MEC Bheki Cele to defend themselves and “shoot hard at criminals”.

Police yesterday shot and killed two suspected cop-killers on the N3 near Howick.

The two suspects, Magojela Ndimande (37) and Sibusiso Thokozani Tembe (32), who were both being sought by police in connection with the murder of Superintendent Zethembe Chonco, were killed during a shootout with the police on the N3 northbound, just less than two kilometres before the Midmar/Howick off-ramp.

Chonco was a top KZN policeman and the Kranskop police station commissioner, who was killed during an ambush in KwaMaphumulo near Stanger on August 26.

Both suspects were allegedly involved in the taxi industry and Ndimande is believed to have been the mastermind behind Chonco’s death.

At the time of his death, Chonco was the commander of the taxi task team organised crime unit and was investigating a number of killings related to taxi violence.

Following Chonco’s death, Cele issued a directive to police in the province ordering them “not to die with their guns in their pockets … [but] to put criminals behind bars or in a mortuary”. This is exactly what happened yesterday.

Police spokeswoman Joey Jeevan said that the detectives investigating Chonco’s murder had received information that the suspects would be travelling on the N3 northbound in a grey Hyundai Tucson SUV.

According to information received by The Witness yesterday, the two suspects were travelling towards the Free State from Durban in an attempt to evade arrest as they realised that the police were closing in on them.

“Observation was then kept and the vehicle was then seen travelling [north]. The detectives then pursued the vehicle, [but this] proved fruitless, resulting in the suspects shooting at the police to avoid arrest,” said Jeevan.

Police returned fire and the suspects’ vehicle came to a halt in the emergency lane. One suspect tried to flee on foot.

An eyewitness said the shooting lasted about five minutes. “We saw the cars chasing after each other and the next thing, we heard shots being fired. We all dived for cover.”

Jeevan said that on approaching the suspects’ vehicle, police found one suspect inside and the other a short distance away. “Both suspects were fatally wounded.”

When The Witness arrived at the scene, one suspect lay dead on the road behind the car and had been shot in the head.

The second suspect was dead behind the steering wheel.

A bullet-proof vest, several spent rounds of ammunition and firearms were strewn on the ground. Police said the firearms included an AK47 assault rifle, a Ruger assault rifle and two nine-millimetre pistols.

Cele commended the police for their actions.

“The shooting of criminals shows that police are heeding my plea … I hope this will be a lesson to other criminals that police are serious about their work and will not hesitate to protect themselves and the community they serve,” he said.

PHOTO STORY: Witness photographer Ian Carbutt was on scene to capture the action.

 

 

 Did you witness the shooting or the ensuing roadblock? Do you have stories or photos to share with readers? E-mail newsed@witness.co.za

Witness reader Roxanne Akal took these photos as well.

 

Witness reader Richard Derrett took these photos below.

 

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