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Attack on police is an attack on the State - Zuma

President Jacob Zuma has urged police officers to protect themselves when their lives are in danger.

President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to police officers killed this year at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 6 September 2015. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

PRETORIA - President Jacob Zuma says the killing of police officers in the country is not only an attack on the men and women in blue, but on the State itself.

Zuma says all commanders at police stations around the country have been instructed to implement a newly developed tactical response plan, to ensure that police are protected.

A national commemoration in honour of officers killed in the line of duty was held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Sunday.

Zuma has urged police officers to protect themselves when their lives are in danger, but says this must be done within the confines of the law.

"People who do not respect any law come and confront the police and the police must respect the law, I think there is imbalance that we need to talk about."

Zuma says the recent spate of police killings in the country shows that criminals are targeting officers and something must be done urgently to address this.

"This matter of the police killing is no longer an academic question; it is a serious question that needs us to respond to it more realistically."

While almost 60 officers have been killed this year alone, Zuma says a tactical response plan has now been developed to immediately respond to police murders.

At the same time, Zuma said crime in this country is a harsh reality.

"We thus have to confront the hard reality that crime in South Africa is violent and that criminals in our country do not hesitate to take the life of another human being."

He said the senseless killing of officers is simply unacceptable.

"A total of 63 officers were killed on duty between April 2014 and March 2015. Even the death of one police officer would be one too many."

SA NEEDS TO HAVE DIALOGUE

In the wake of the recent spate of police killings in the country, Zuma said South Africa needs to have a deeper discussion around combating crime.

Zuma said the fight against crime requires the participation of all South Africans.

Zuma said a joint intervention between the public and police needs to be adopted if crime is to be addressed effectively in the country.

"As a layman, I have no answer but I think it's a matter that as a country we need to look at."

Zuma said the legal structures of government must also coordinate better in dealing with criminals.

"We can't say the crime is rife but the manner of the process of dealing with criminals doesn't change."

The president has urged the public to use this month to raise awareness around the plight of police killings nationwide.