- Two police commanders at the Eastern Cape police head offices in King William's Town have died on the same day from Covid-19.
- Brigadier Melikaya Ngodi, 56, and Colonel Makhaya Marhwanqa, 58, both died on Sunday.
- The two had 35 years of service each in the SAPS, having joined in 1985.
Two police commanders at the Eastern Cape police head office in King William's Town have died on the same day of Covid-19.
It is understood the two, Brigadier Melikaya Ngodi, 56, and Colonel Makhaya Marhwanqa, 58, had met recently at a police operation.
Ngodi was the provincial head of the Operational Command Centre, while Marhwanqa was the commander of the centre's War Room component.
They both succumbed to Covid-19 on Sunday, said Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana.
The two had 35 years of service each, having joined the SAPS in 1985.
A shocked provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Liziwe Ntshinga has suspended all non-critical meetings and operations.
In a letter seen by News24 addressed to all employees, Ntshinga said all SAPS personnel must be restricted to their place of work "as far as possible. Movement between and within buildings by personnel must be limited."
In May, the offices were temporarily shut down for deep cleaning and decontamination after Ntshinga and several officers tested positive for Covid-19.
"Visits to the provincial head office, district commissioner's offices and accounting stations must be limited to only those matters that cannot be finalised by means of email correspondence, scanned documents, telephonic engagements or virtual meetings."
Ngodi and Marhwanqa's wives are police captains, accounting to the same provincial head office.
Their wives could not be reached for comment. Those close to the families revealed that the officers were too distraught to speak to the media.
Police officers at risk on duty
A police officer, not authorised to speak to the media, said because police officers were on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19, their lives were at risk.
"Without the police to enforce law and order, a lot can go wrong. These two gentlemen died in the line of duty. We salute them."
A high-ranking source within the head office said cross-infection was rife within the SAPS as officers attended meetings and police operations, including roadblocks as they went about their duties.
"For instance, Brigadier Ngodi attended a lot of meetings and operations in his capacity as the commander of all the elite units such as Tactical Response Team, Flying Squad, Public Order Police etc."
Another official said: "Brigadier Ngodi was a caring family man who loved his wife Captain Ngodi dearly. They would arrive at work together every morning, but sometimes Captain Ngodi would leave work alone because her husband would attend late night meetings because he was dedicated to his work."
Marhwanqa was a commanding officer in the Operational Command Centre's War Room, a unit reporting to Ngodi.
Buffalo City hotspot
On Monday, Buffalo City Metro mayor Xola Pakati announced East London, Mdantsane, Bhisho and King William's Town, as a hotspot of Covid-19, according to DispatchLive. A total disregard of preventive measures, which included wearing of masks during social gatherings, was identified as the driving force behind the steady increase in Covid-19 cases in the metro.
In her letter, Ntshinga ordered her troops to refrain from attending social gatherings even in their spare time.
"All personnel should again be sensitised to refrain from attending social and other gatherings after hours, including attending funerals of those who were not close relatives."
DispatchLive reported that BCM hospitals were so full that critically ill patients from Mthatha could not be transferred and had to, instead, be moved to KwaZulu-Natal facilities.
"On behalf of the entire SAPS family, I would like to personally pay tribute to the two members who placed their lives on the line to ensure that the people of South Africa are protected against crime as well as against this virus. I would also like to convey my sincere condolences to the families of our fallen colleagues and thank them for the decades the members have served in the SAPS, as well as for allowing them to serve during these trying times," said Ntshinga.
Do you want to know more about this topic? Sign up for one of News24's 33 newsletters to receive the information you want in your inbox. Special newsletters are available to subscribers.