Angels of death: It's been a year, but the pain is still fresh for families of Ngcobo massacre

2019-02-21 18:32
Wreaths in remembrance of the five cops who were gunned down. (Ziyanda Zweni, Correspondent)

Wreaths in remembrance of the five cops who were gunned down. (Ziyanda Zweni, Correspondent)

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A year after the brutal attack on five on-duty police officers in the small town of Ngcobo, in the Eastern Cape, allegedly by members of the controversial Seven Angels Ministry, the officers' names have been etched onto a wall at the police station to honour their memory.

The officers were remembered on Thursday at the Ngcobo police station, where three of them were killed, while another two were gunned down less than 10km away.

Streams of tears and sobs pierced through the air during the unveiling of the wall of remembrance.

Family members of the five officers - Warrant Officer Zuko Mbini, 45, Constables Zuko Ntsheku, 38, Nkosiphendule Pongco, 32, Sibongiseni Sandlana, 32, and Kuhle Metete, 27 - said they were still struggling to come to terms with the deaths of their loved ones.

Ngcobo

Family members could not hold back their tears during the unveiling of a remembrance wall a year after the cops were gunned down while on duty. (Ziyanda Zweni, Correspondent)

They were brutally killed when a group of attackers entered the Ngcobo police station and, without warning, randomly opened fire on officers who were on duty. They also stole six pistols, two shotguns and two assault rifles.

A retired soldier, who rushed to the scene, was shot dead as the attackers fled.

Seven Angels Ministry, which was led by seven Mancoba brothers, was implicated in the deaths.

Nowinti Pongco, who lost her younger brother Nkosiphendule, said her mother in particular still cries when she thinks about her son, who was the only breadwinner at home.

'It's painful'

"It's really hard on her because she used money she made from selling fruits in the streets to send my brother to school. He was the one looking after our family and, after his death, things went from good to bad," said Pongco.

"This commemoration is a reminder of what happened. It's painful."

She said it would be better if government could support them monthly.

Officer Sandlana's uncle Zibonele Sandlana echoed Pongco's sentiments.

"The commemoration shows that government cares about us. But we would appreciate it more if they could support us, as our breadwinners are no more," said Sandlana.

READ: 'You couldn't count the cars' - CRL on Ngcobo ministry's 'opulence'

The abaThembu kingdom's spokesperson Nkosi Dumisani Mgudlwa called for the members of the controversial church to leave the small town, situated between Mthatha and Queenstown.

"What is left now is for the Seven Angels people to go back to Ngqamakhwe where they come from."

Meanwhile, the South African Policing Union (SAPU) and Police and the Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) called for lengthy sentences for the accused.

SAPU's Sergeant Mzonke Joxo called for security upgrades for police stations, saying officers were still at risk, as most police stations had not improved since the Ngcobo massacre.

"Police are exposed to mass killers. Government needs to be proactive and secure our police officers. There are police stations that are unsafe and do not qualify to be working environments," said Joxo.

'Cops have human rights too'

Popcru's provincial deputy chairperson, Bongiwe Mchithwa, bemoaned the shortage of manpower in police stations, which contributes to putting the lives of officers in danger.

"That is not acceptable. We ask that you minister must look at those challenges," she said.

Police Minister General Bheki Cele - who sang "inde lendlela makuthandazwe (this road is long, let us pray)" - before making his address, said a tactical response team would be deployed to Ngcobo permanently from March 1, to root out crime.

He said police would not be deterred and demoralised by criminals.

READ: Intelligence structures failed in Ngcobo killings - Mabuza

"This world is not for criminals. We should fight that someone who kills a cop should get arrested for treason. Killing a cop must be different from stealing bread. Cops have human rights too," said Cele.

"We are policing in the era of human rights. You cops have human rights that you must defend."

Ngcobo

Some of the officers who were on duty on February 21, 2018 when a group of attackers randomly opened fire on officers at the Ngcobo police station. (Ziyanda Zweni, Correspondent)

The six accused - Andani Monco‚ 30‚ Kwanele Ndlwana‚ 23‚ Siphesihle Tatsi‚ 19‚ Siphosomzi Tshefu‚ 24‚ Phumzile Mhlatywa‚ 46, and Phuthumile Mancoba - will appear in the Mthatha High Court in April for trial.

They are facing charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, attempted murder, and unlawful possession of firearms.

After the brazen attack on February 21, a surveillance system, an electric fence and a new gate with a buzzer were some of the security measures installed at the station.

Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  crime
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