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'Attacks on the police are an attack on the state'

President Zuma says recent cop killings reopened the debate on whether SA should be a gun free society.

FILE. President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

KATLEHONG - President Jacob Zuma has said the recent spate of police killings has reopened the debate in government on whether South Africa should be a gun free country.

The president was speaking in Katlehong after paying his respects to the family of a Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officer Simon Mabatamela, who was shot dead in a robbery in Rosettenville last week.

He was shot dead while stumbling across a robbery in progress at the Junction Mall in Rosettenville.

Six police officers were murdered, bringing to 54 the number of police officers murdered since since January.

LISTEN: _Brigadier Vish Naidoo speaks to Cape Talk's Kieno Kammies about a report that has revealed 54 South African Police Service members have been killed since the beginning of this year, an increase by over 10% on the same period last year. _

Zuma said the police have become the number one target for criminals, but they're unfairly criticised when they react strongly.

He said it's opened the debate on whether all firearms should be removed from society.

"Can we then take measures to ensure that we disarm the country as a government? We'll be discussing this, but I believe society itself must participate."

The president said attacks on the police amount to an attack on the state.

He said the law should be amended to empower police officers to better protect themselves against murderous criminals.

Zuma said the rate of police deaths this year is unprecedented.

"You could almost think that there is war. I think it indicates the abnormality of the security situation."

He said the law should be adapted to empower officers to act against murderous criminals.

"Should we allow the police to be killed by the criminals because the police must be soft, the must be democratic when they face the criminals, when the criminals are not democratic."

The president warned that at the current rate more than 100 police officers could be killed this year.

KILLINGS

It's understood two suspects walked into Pick n Pay and took a security guard's firearm before making off with a money box.

The suspects apparently panicked and shot Mabatamela.

Police said Mabatamela, who was in his JMPD uniform, had entered the store to buy something when he was killed.

On Thursday last week, a policeman was killed in a shootout with gunmen in Temba north of Pretoria.

On Wednesday last week, a Vosloorus policeman was killed following a shootout at the Vosloorus Crossing Shopping Centre.

He died on the scene while his colleague was left traumatised.

Also on Wednesday, a Hawks official was stabbed to death in Cape Town.

Petrus Holz (50) who was attached to the Commercial Crimes Unit, was killed after pulling over on the side of the N2 highway to attend to two punctured tyres.