Bheki Cele recalls families' pain in final salute to police officers killed in the line of duty
Covid-19 has no sense of occasion. It has robbed the SA Police Service of a traditional send-off for the men and women in blue who have lost their lives.
This was the message from police minister Bheki Cele at the annual SA Police Service commemoration day at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Sunday morning.
The SAPS is honouring 40 officers killed in the line of duty between April 1 last year and March 31 this year.
In attendance, were the families of three fallen members and Deputy President David Mabuza. Virtual commemorations with the other families are being held in the various provinces, due to Covid-19 regulations limiting the number of people at gatherings.
The event was opened with a brief moment of silence and prayer.
As flags flew at half-mast to honour the fallen heroes and heroines, officers saluted while the national anthem played.
While the names of the fallen members were read out, the families each received a red rose which they placed in front of the national memorial wall.
Younger family members of the slain officers each received a teddy bear clad in SAPS regalia.
Family members sobbed silently, holding the teddy bears as the ceremony continued.
“We are paying homage to officers in blue who gave up their lives for the service of this country. These officers' last day on earth started like any other.
“They got up, got ready for work and kissed their families goodbye.
“But their work, and that of all the officers of the SAPS, is like no other. The moment they put on that uniform, they answered a call to serve and to protect. Even if it meant putting their lives in harm's way,” Cele said.
#sapsHQ The names of these fallen heroes and heroines will be engraved on the National #SAPSMemorial Wall at the Union Buildings to signify the gratitude of the nation for their bravery, loyalty and sacrifices made to serve and protect the people of South Africa. #FinalSalute ME pic.twitter.com/3IUQxLsCkO— SA Police Service 🇿🇦 (@SAPoliceService) September 6, 2020
Cele said the 40 officers who lost their lives in the line of duty were deserving of respect and honour.
He said Covid-19 had also robbed the police of “capable men and women, many who succumbed to the virus while on the front lines”.
Cele said he hoped that the families find closure in knowing that their loved ones were the “calibre of officers who served and protected the people of this country”.
He quoted the words of retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Hope is being able to see that there is light, despite all of the darkness.”
Cele said the officers served the nation with diligence and utmost determination.
“We know that the majority of officers in this police service do an incredibly hard and dangerous job. Yet they do it fairly and professionally.
“This is why I will continue to be loud on the call that says any attack on a police officer is a direct attack on the authority of the state and it should be regarded as treason.
“The pain of some of these families, I have witnessed first-hand.
“I have been with many of them during their darkest hours.
“Losing one of our own truly cuts deep.
“Collectively sending off one of our own — no matter the rank — has become an unprecedented tradition in the police service.”