Acting President, Angie Motshekga, has described the late Warrant Officer Thomas Shongwe as a friend to many and a dedicated officer of the law.
“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,” the Acting President said in her sombre tribute.
Motshekga delivered a keynote address on Thursday at the memorial service of Shongwe, a Presidential Protection Services (PPS) member, who was killed in an accident on Sunday.
Shongwe, along with others, was on duty with Deputy President David Mabuza when the accident occurred in Middelburg, Mpumalanga.
Shongwe, 56, who was born and bred in Mpumalanga, died on the scene.
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.
“Today we bid a reluctant and sad farewell to one of his generation’s finest law enforcement officers, Warrant Officer Shongwe,” she said, thanking the Shongwe family for lending them their “finest” son to serve the country.
“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,” she read.
Officer Shongwe had 31 years of uninterrupted service, joining the police force in 1991 as a student Constable.
Motshekga said he was an incorruptible and loyal servant of the people.
“Our grief and tears must not be mistaken for fear of death or the enemy.”
She told mourners that the 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 PPS is no more.”
Citing the World Health Organisation (WHO) data, the Minister said it was estimated that 14 000 people are lost on South Africa roads 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.”
She said the legacy they can carry forward in the memory of 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’.
“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 PPS 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 PPS, where he served as a close protector for Deputy President.
“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.”
She saluted 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.”
The officer excelled in his work, 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.”
Shongwe is survived by his wife and three children.
Source: South African Government News Agency