Cops not ‘dogs of war’

2011-04-20 00:00

AN irritated General Bheki Cele, Commissioner of Police, yesterday denied with a stabbing finger and an irritated expression that he ever said “the police must shoot to kill”.

His denial flies in the face of his statements soon after he was appointed head of police. A few hours later Cele at a news conference in Kimberley defended police members and attacked the media.

In Ficksburg, Cele was indignant when he and the Deputy Minister of Police, Maggie Sotyu, visited the family of Andries Tatane, who was killed allegedly by rubber bullets that police shot at close range into his chest during a mass protest against poor service delivery.

After this visit Cele and his team rushed to Kimberley. There he said on a news conference that the police are not mercenary “dogs of war” and that they are not trained to kill.

In Ficksburg, Volksblad asked Cele to comment on Meqheleng residents’ expectation that he should shoulder part of the responsibility for Tatane’s death after his previous utterances that the police must “shoot to kill”.

“Give me one statement in which I said that. Bring me one sound byte where Cele said the police must shoot to kill. I have never said it,” he answered irratbly.

Cele also did not want to comment on the Indepent Complaints Directorate investigation and whether it reacted fast enough to Tatane’s death.

Asked why the commanding officer of the six police officers who are behind bars is not locked up with them after the police violence in Ficksburg, Cele said it is all in the ICD’s hands.

Just after talking to the media, an indignant Cele left to visit the family of the late Tatane at their home in Meqheleng.

Later he offered his condoloences to the family and and said the people humbled him.

“I did not know what to expect from the family, but I learned a few things from them today. They are people with good hearts.

“Many people asked, ‘Where is Cele? Why does he not come to Ficksburg?’ But I was away and only landed in the country on Friday. I came as soon as it was possible to Ficksburg.”

He described Tatane’s death as a tragic incident that should never have happened.“My wish is that Andries Tatane’s blood would be the last [spilled] in such an incident.”

Just before leaving the Tatane home, Cele handed R350 to the family. Sotyu gave R400 and one of the delegates added R200. Tatane’s sister, Sarah Bani, said they will use the money to buy something for Tatane’s boy, Molefi (4).

She said she was amazed by Cele’s visit.

“After everything that has happened we did not think he would come. He is also a difficult man to reach, so we were amazed at his visit and glad that he came. It does not fix anything, but it does give us the impression that a lot of attention is being given to Andries’s case.” 

At the end of last year Cele also told the media that he never used the words “Shoot to kill”. What he had said, he declared, was that “the police must use deadly force”.

In 2009 several media quoted Cele saying during a media conference that he stands by his earlier “shoot to kill”utterances. After that, several newspapers started referring to him as Bheki “Shoot to Kill” Cele.

Shortly after his appointment, Cele requested Parliament to amend Article 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act to allow police officers to react more quickly, all the better to get rid of violent criminals.

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