The Police Ministry has urged members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to act decisively whenever confronted by criminals and not to compromise their safety.

According to the National Crime Statistics of the 2020/2021 financial year, 80 officers of the SAPS were killed on and off duty. Seventeen of those members were killed in the Eastern Cape, the second highest figure after KwaZulu-Natal province, which accounts for 21 police murders.

Police Minister Bheki Cele made the call on Tuesday during the seventh leg of the Safer Festive Season Inspection Tour in the Eastern Cape.

Cele, who was accompanied by Police Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale, National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole and SAPS senior management, visited Mthatha to assess the operational plan the province has in place for the holiday season.

During the holiday season, the province attracts thousands of visitors, the Ministry said in a statement.

While addressing a police parade of officers, Cele warned of the desperation some criminals may have, who won’t hesitate to end the life of a police officer, in pursuit of what they want.

“Police officers, you are the country’s assets. You are useful to the country when you are alive and well. I’m making a call to all of you this festive season, while enforcing the law, protect yourself as stipulated by the law.

“Simply put, when confronted by gun-toting criminals, don’t hesitate, because when a criminal pulls out a gun on you, the only thing that will follow after, is you getting shot and possibly getting killed.”

As the Eastern Cape prepared for more visitors in the run up to Christmas Day, SAPS had vowed to clamp down on violent crimes, including sexual assault, especially as many cases of rape and sexual violence occur during social gatherings and other festivities associated with the holiday season.

According to the latest National Crime statistics for the 2020/2021 reporting period, Lusikisiki police station recorded the second highest rape cases in the country, after Inanda station in KZN.

The ministry said it was concerned that a minor had been arrested for a series of rapes in Mdantsane. The 14-year-old boy faced seven counts of rape, with the first case dating back to 2019 when the youngster was only 12 years old.

“It is on that score that all operational members of the SAPS are instructed to prioritise gender-based crimes and constantly improve their services to rape survivors. A call has also been made for all officers to ensure police stations are not centres of secondary victimisation for victims of gender-based violence,” said the ministry.

The eighth instalment of the Safer Festive Season Inspection Tour on Wednesday moves to the Northern Cape before concluding in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.

Source: South African Government News Agency