Police weren’t saying this week whether the officer who allegedly shot and killed his wife in Masiphumelele before shooting himself was carrying his service pistol.
Police are investigating a murder-suicide, according to SAPS spokeswoman Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana.
Detective Constable Thulani Buti, 38, reportedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His wife, Andisa, 34, was shot three times.
A neighbour, who did not want to be named, told the Cape Times the couple had argued moments earlier on Saturday March 10.
The Echo asked Ocean View station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Monwabisi Buzwayo, whether Detective Constable Buti had been carrying his service pistol at the time and whether he had been on duty, but he said his superiors had instructed him not to comment because the case was “sensitive”.
The Echo put the same questions to the provincial police media office, but it did not respond by the time this edition went to print.
Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said police officers were permitted to take their service pistols home because they were never really off duty, in the sense that even if they had come to the end of their shift they were still duty bound to respond if their help was needed. But because of that, said Mr Burger, 60% of cases where officers were robbed of their weapons happened when they were off duty and less vigilant.
Detective Constable Buti and his wife died just two weeks after a Mitchell’s Plain police officer allegedly killed his girlfriend and her mother before turning the gun on himself.
He reportedly used his service pistol after holding his girlfriend and her mother hostage in their home.
Norma Gqamane, Detective Constable Buti’s aunt, said she could not believe what had happened.
“Thulani was a real joker and was always making jokes with family and friends,” she said.
She describes him and his wife as the perfect couple and said he always had a smile on his face.
“I don’t know how this happened,” she said.
She last spoke to her nephew on Saturday morning. He had been on his way to Longbeach Mall and had stopped by for a quick chat and a joke.
Ms Gqamane could not confirm whether the couple’s 6-year-old son had witnessed the shooting.
The child – who had only recently come from the Eastern Cape to live with his parents – was in the care of family.
Ms Gqamane said the couple would be buried in the Eastern Cape and their son would be sent back there to live with his grandparents, Detective Constable Buti’s parents.
Community leader Raymond Twetwa said the shooting was the third of its kind in Masiphumelele and those who witnessed it are still in shock.
Kathy Cronje, Ocean View Community Police Forum spokesperson, said the murder-suicide had shocked Ocean View police station to the core.
She said there had been a debriefing for all the staff on Monday morning, which had been very emotional for everyone involved.
Ms Cronje said trauma counsellors, a priest and social workers had all responded on the day to extend support to the family, but they had been “too broken” to talk then.
A house full of people and other children, not just the couple’s son, had been present during the shooting, she said.
Ms Cronje knew Detective Constable Buti and described him as
“such a happy, vibrant, keen guy – he was always first to want to help”.
She added: “Apparently, according to people who knew him well, two days before this tragedy, he began acting out of character, so we believe there was an unusual or external stressor.”
She said the shooting was a terrifying insight into the unseen trauma and pressures police officers endured. “His case file, like that of all his colleagues, was overwhelming,” she said.
Ms Cronje runs a safe house for women who have escaped domestic violence, so the news of a woman shot by her husband has reverberated through the refuge.
“Initially there was such shock and disbelief that a policeman could do such a thing. But because of my work with the police community forum, they have learned to understand the severity of the conditions that the police officers live and work under,” she said.
Ms Cronje said the ripple effect of having a policeman do such a thing was felt deeply.
“The entire situation is just horrendous and sad for everyone,” she said.