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Keynote address by Acting President Ms Angie Motshega during the Memorial Service of W/O Shongwe, SAPS Training College

Programme Director, 
Police Minister,
Cabinet colleagues,
Shongwe family,
Government officials at various levels,
Fellow mourners,

On behalf of the Government and the People of South Africa, I convey our heartfelt condolences to the Shongwe family, the Deputy President and South African Police Service (SAPS) at large. 

On Sunday, the Presidential Protection Services (PPS) members were on duty with Deputy President His Excellency David Mabuza when a car accident occurred.

The accident instantly claimed the life of 56-year-old Warrant Officer Thomas Shongwe. 

The accident occurred in Middelburg, Mpumalanga province.

Two members of the PPS who were in one of the vehicles sustained mild to serious injuries and were transported to a nearby hospital for critical medical attention.

The Warrant Officer, who sustained mild injuries, has since been discharged while the Captain is still in critical condition in the hospital.

As we know, 56-year-old Warrant Officer Thomas Shongwe was confirmed dead on the scene, and today, we gather to honour him. 

Programme director, it is indeed sad that history has conspired to have me today speaking about officer Shongwe, a friend to many, to some a colleague and to us a dedicated officer of the law in the past tense. 

Thus, it is neither an honour nor a privilege for me to speak at this memorial service. 

For me, the death of Warrant Officer Shongwe is still surreal. 

Yet he has indeed shuffled off this mortal coil.

Born and bred in Nelspruit, 56-year-old Shongwe is survived by his wife and three children.

Today we bid a reluctant and sad farewell to one of his generation’s finest law enforcement officers, Warrant Officer Shongwe. 

We must thank the Shongwe family for lending us their finest son to serve our homeland. 

We are grief-stricken and shaken to the core by the untimely passing of Warrant Officer Shongwe four years before his hard-earned retirement was due. 

Our grief and tears must not be mistaken for fear of death or the enemy. 

We are people of faith. 

We do not fear death. 

Faith has taught us to overcome death, for we will rise in glory at the end of the times. 

What we fear most is to live petty mundane lives with no purpose, without impact and without a bigger social cause that seeks to empower and serve others, not our egoist self. 

Warrant Officer lived a life of purpose, a life dedicated to service to his homeland.

As a nation and a people, we are reeling from excruciating pain. 

A dedicated officer nearing retirement died in the line of duty serving his country; in particular, the Presidency as part of the Presidential Protection Services is no more. 

Sadly every day, we wake up to the news that yet another brave soldier, servant of the people, family member, friend, comrade and patriot has fallen in the road carnage.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), estimated road deaths in South Africa claim over 14 000 lives yearly. 

Due to road deaths, we are burying some of our finest patriots, police officers, tried and tested cadres, leaders of various sectors, and our dearest family members.

As I stand before you, the words of the Holy Bible ring in my head. 

In Psalm 34:18, the Holy Bible says, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” 

In Matthew 5, verse 4: God says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

In other words, God promises us His mercy and compassion in our darkest hours like today.  

For, He promised never to forsake us, even if we are knee-deep in sin. 

In honesty, salvation is for all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 

Programme Director, today is neither the time nor the place to apportion blame. 

Let us accept that our Officer Shongwe has slipped to the next world. 

Like a line in a haunting Alice Walker poem, today we proclaim sorrowfully: Goodnight, Warrant Officer; we will see you in the morning. 

Despite the gruesome nature of the accident, I am confident that Warrant Officer Shongwe’s soul is at peace. 

He suffers no more. 

The only legacy we can carry forward in the memory of Officer Shongwe is to know and understand that road safety is everybody’s responsibility, including protection officers.

It is cold comfort that he died instantly and thus suffered less, and now he is at rest and in a better place. 

He is at peace and already “seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Today we mourn the tragic loss of a life that made policing fashionable and serving others routine. 

From what I hear from Shongwe’s colleagues, he was a great man, an officer with an unblemished record, truly a man of integrity. 

For the duration of his service, he was attached to the protection security services division, where he served as an in-transit VIP protector. 

From 1994 to 2018, he rendered protection services to the office of the premier in Mpumalanga before being transferred to the presidential protection services component, where he served as a close protector for our Deputy President. 

He believed in the power of the Police to protect others at the risk of his life. 

Policing is one of the most important functions undertaken by every sovereign government, including ours. 

For the state machinery, the Police is an inevitable organ that would ensure the maintenance of law and order and the first link in the criminal justice system.

Warrant Officer Shongwe served the Blue line with honour. 

It is important to emphasise this point; the mission of the South African Police Service, of which Warrant Officer Shongwe was a valuable member, is to: prevent and combat anything that may threaten the safety and security of any community.

Furthermore, Police must investigate any crimes that threaten the safety and security of any community, ensure offenders are brought to justice, and participate in efforts to address the root causes of crime.

In other words, Warrant Officer Shongwe and his colleagues are our first line of defence against malcontents, gangs and terrorists. 

We salute Warrant Office Shongwe for his absolute dedication to the honourable duty of policing. 

Therefore, he died in the line of duty, doing what he loved the most, serving others, not himself. 

Like a true soldier, he died with his boots on. 

Warrant Officer Shongwe gave a new meaning to the word gentleman as a person. 

He was a gentleman in the proper English sense of the word. 

He exuded calmness and gentleness despite his finest training in the use of weapons and the gruelling nature of policing. 

He was indeed one of a kind. 

We are indeed poorer without him. 

However, the Shongwe family must take solace in that your loss is shared across the length and breadth of our beautiful land.  

National police commissioner General Fannie Masemola has described Warrant Officer Shongwe as a quiet, punctual, committed and disciplined member who served his country with distinction.

General Masemola decried the loss of Officer Shongwe, describing it as a great loss to the organisation (SAPS) and the community at large. 

Shongwe was no ordinary police officer but a protection officer who looked after someone of a statue of a Deputy President of the Republic. 

It is a position of trust fraught with danger. 

He excelled, becoming more than an officer to the Deputy President but part of his family. 

He spent more hours at work than with his own family. 

He lived and breathed policing and close protection. 

Officer Shongwe had 31 years of uninterrupted service, joining the Police in 1991 as a student constable. 

He was an incorruptible and loyal servant of the people.

In the true meaning of the Biblical parables, “he (Officer Shongwe) was always clothed with strength and dignity”.

Today, we reluctantly say he has run his race.

To all friends, comrades and family, we say, ‘Death, be not proud.’ 

As John Donne insisted many centuries ago that death is a feeble enemy, ‘One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more.’

Rest easy, officer; we will see you in the morning. 

I thank you.