'We are here again to squeeze the space for criminals to zero' – Bheki Cele

Pretoria – Newly-appointed Minister of Police Bheki Cele gave marching orders to police officers during a rousing speech at a welcome parade held by national police commissioner Khehla Sitole in Pretoria.

He took the opportunity to announce his plans to improve the police force, which include ensuring that police management is available at all hours and that the cellphone numbers of station commanders, provincial commanders and generals are made public.

"We are here again to squeeze the space for criminals to zero. SAPS members, my family, we are together, reducing the crime levels to zero!"

The minister added that he was confident that, given the resources, technology and manpower, the police force would be ready to respond to crime.

"I've got no doubt that we are ready to respond to the call made by the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa when he said 'thuma mina' (send me)!"

He said that the call demanded a more "meaningful emphasis" to what "informs our fundamental existence as the police force towards the successful delivery of our mandate".

"I say, let us take the call and be loud in teaching the hardcore criminals to understand the fearless language of police," demanded Cele.

-Read: Bheki Cele: 'We can't continue to bury police officers'

Cele also voiced his concerns about the increased crime statistics from the last financial year.

The number of reported murders went from 18 673 in 2016 to 19 016 in 2017. Attempted murder cases increased from 18 127 to 18 205 and robbery with aggravated circumstances cases increased from 132 527 to 140 956.

"National commissioner, this picture must change if we are indeed serious about fighting crime and regaining police confidence to the communities we serve," said Cele.

Cele was the national police commissioner from 2009 to 2011.

He replaced Fikile Mbalula as Minister of Police when Ramaphosa reshuffled the Cabinet last month.

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