‘I’m not Bheki Cele’

2011-10-29 17:45

General Bheki Cele thrived on the ­attention the ­media afforded him during his reign as police commissioner.

Cele, who was suspended by President Jacob Zuma this week, even went so far as to grace the cover of a men’s lifestyle ­magazine.

His supercop image also made him the darling of social scene scribes, who never stopped raving about his sharp dress sense and impressive physique.

But Lieutenant-General Sibusiso Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, the man who found himself thrust ­into Cele’s crime-busting boots this week, made it clear that he would have a different relationship with the media.

In fact, Mkhwanazi came close to telling the media to go hang this week.

Looking impressive in a ­camouflage uniform, Mkhwanazi said he had had a long discussion with his office after they were ­inundated with requests for ­interviews shortly after his ­announcement.

“I must, however, reiterate the fact that I am not a man of many words. I am not even familiar with the media environment, but what I know best is fighting crime,” he said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

It appears that Mkhwanazi is trying to present himself as a hardened crime fighter rather than a socialite and sex symbol.

“Look, I’m a different person. I’m not like General Cele. You are definitely going to experience that. This may be the only ­opportunity you will get to ­interact with me,” he said in ­response to a question on whether he believed he was the right man to fill Cele’s boots.

“I’m not a media person, as I’ve said. I haven’t heard, read or seen what is being spoken about me.

“I’m glad you get to see me ­today. I hope if you write things, you write things that come from me.

“If you want to paint whatever picture of me, feel free to do that. I cannot stop you if you want to publish.”

Mkhwanazi was born and raised in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, 38 years ago. He joined the South African Police Service in 1993 and was initially ­deployed in the Public Order ­Police unit.

But his meteoric rise through the ranks and promotion to the country’s top cop, albeit in an ­acting capacity, has not gone down well within the security structures.

Former senior top policemen raised concerns about his managerial experience.

But a glance through his CV shows that Mkhwanazi has ­impressive credentials.

He qualified as a supervisor in counterterrorism from the US Department of Justice and the FBI in 2003.

He received a ­certificate in crisis response team training at Louisiana State University in the US in 2001.

Locally, he obtained the Special Task Force Operators Training certificate in 1998, Public Order Police Operations certificate in 1997 and Bomb Disposal certificate in 2000.

In 2005 he was ­appointed the section head of the crack Special Task Force, which focuses on ­specialised policing such as ­counteracting volatile hostage situations.

Mkhwanazi said he was notified of his appointment as acting ­police commissioner shortly ­before Zuma made the announcement on Monday. He said he didn’t know why he was chosen.

“What I believe is that commanders don’t promote themselves; they don’t campaign for positions.

Commanders get ­appointed. I’m given instructions to act and I’m going to act,” he said.

When asked to clarify what he meant by saying he was going to fight fire with fire, Mkhwanazi hinted that the media was on a crusade to sensationalise this.

“I prepared a speech because my staff said to me I should rather have it written down for the media people so that they can take it and read it, and interpret it so that I cannot be misquoted. When I say we will meet fire with fire, I mean we will meet fire with fire in the fight against crime.

“What that does mean? I challenge you to commit a crime so that you can experience what we are talking about,” he said.

Mkhwanazi said Cele “made a significant impact in ensuring that we squeeze the space for criminals to zero through ­resources and human capital ­investment”.

So, will he be consulting Cele for advice then?

“I am not sure if you understand that General Cele is one of the ­citizens of this country. He holds the rank of general and he’s been my boss all along.

“The question should be, should I consult or will I be ­consulting the community in the fight against crime? If the answer is yes, then definitely General Cele will be consulted.”

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