Ngcobo massacre: Plan was to rob Capitec bank

Female police officers forced to open weapons cache during attackers’ raid on station, says Bheki Cele

Ngcobo massacre: 5 suspects confess plan was to steal police guns to rob bank

Cape Town - New Police Minister Bheki Cele has revealed that five suspects have given confessions to the events of the Ngcobo massacre, admitting the plan was to rob the Capitec Bank across from the police station.

Cele on Wednesday presented his first statement to the National Assembly on the Ngcobo massacre that saw five police officers killed during an attack on the town's police station this past week.

The former police commissioner - who was sworn in in a separate ceremony on Tuesday - told the House that they have received confessions from five suspects.

"All the suspects who were arrested were questioned, and it transpired that only five of the suspects of the 37 arrested were involved.

"The confession made by the above-mentioned suspects was that a group of eight individuals conspired to rob the Capitec Bank across from the police station."

The eight had identified the police station as a place to get firearms.

He also saluted the officers who gave their lives, regaling the story of how female police officers were forced to open the weapons cache during the attackers’ raid on the station.

"These were female members who were forced to walk and lie on the blood of their colleagues," Cele emphasised.

A ninth police weapon was recovered on Tuesday night, out of a total of 10, he said.

'Only one side will get buried', Cele warns

Cele brought his customary no-nonsense style to the proceedings, promising swift action against those who plotted similar attacks on police officials in future.

"We want to make it very clear that SAPS is not an undertaker company. We resist burying our members," he told the House.

"I want to issue a strong warning. Any military engagement by the thugs engaging SAPS, there [will be] one side who gets buried after the engagement, and that side will not be the South African Police Service."

A special task team countered the attack on Friday, killing seven suspects in a violent shootout at a church in the area.

Cele paid homage to those who lost their lives in the attack.

"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we stand here and present the stories of young South African police officers that we lost at Ngcobo," he lamented.

"These were young and energetic members."

Cele said the church would remain a "permanent crime scene" for the time being.

"For now, we have no church. It is a crime scene.

"If it [doesn’t] remain a church, it will perish as a criminal crime scene."

'Behaving like animals'

Cele raised the ire of some of the opposition MPs, most notably the Democratic Alliance, when he accused them of grandstanding during their responses to his speech.

"These are families in pain. The community is in pain, and even the police officers are in pain.

"Some time, you should go attend the funeral and be part of the pain that they feel… instead of behaving in the animal way you are," he charged.

"We do" and "we were the first ones there", some in the DA benches hit back.

Cele finished his statement by praising the action of special task team involved in the shootout, and encouraged police officers not to hesitate to "sort things out the right way".

New police minister #BhekiCele salutes the fallen #Ngcobo police officers during his first statement to Parliament as minister. He also warns criminals that SAPS is "not an undertaker business," and "thugs" attack officers at their own risk. @TeamNews24— Paul Herman (@PaulHermanCPT) February 28, 2018

'Has the sun set on the new dawn?'

Before the debate, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete took the opportunity to welcome unsuspecting new MPs to Parliament, zeroing in on former ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

A bashful Mantashe was encouraged to stand up and be recognised by the speaker.

"It was brought to my attention that one of our members looked a bit lost. Let’s welcome Honourable Minister Mantashe," Mbete teased.

Fifteen new Cabinet members took oaths on Tuesday, including ten ministers and five deputies.

Approximately half the Cabinet benches though filled on Wednesday, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle earlier this week.

"Has the sun set on the new dawn?" Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenuisen chirped before the session began.