Cele talks tough on return

2018-03-04 05:52
Bheki Cele (Lisa Hnatowicz, Beeld)

Bheki Cele (Lisa Hnatowicz, Beeld)

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The politician dubbed “the cat in the hat” has a twofold approach to his new portfolio – police must uphold South Africa’s constitutional democracy rights, but when under attack they must fight with everything they have.

Speaking to City Press this week after returning to the police, this time as a minister and not the national commissioner who got the boot due to unlawful involvement in acquiring a new building for the police headquarters, Cele said he should be judged on the output of his work as commissioner.

“Look at the crime statistics of 2010/11 and look at murder because you can’t cheat with murder statistics. We reduced the number of murders to 16 000 from 18 000. The murder rate was going down by 1 000 every year before that, but we reduced it by 2 000 in that financial year. Do you know where the murder rate is now? It is at 19 000. There are things we are going to go back to and brush up on, but I won’t say what for now,” Cele said in an interview at his Cape Town office.

A board of inquiry, chaired by Judge Jake Moloi, found Cele to be unfit for office and recommended his removal in 2012. This followed an investigation by then public protector Thuli Madonsela, who found Cele’s involvement in deals to acquire police office space was “improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration” in 2011.

Cele said he hit the ground running this week and was still in the process of meeting heads of the different police units because he believes it is important to build coherence at that level to improve the management’s working relationship. He said management must pull together before dealing with the foot soldiers.

The messy crime intelligence is his first port of call.

“For instance, in Engcobo, people believe that if crime intelligence was a priority, the matter would not have happened. It means there is one unit that we need to work on like yesterday.”

The handling of crimes against women and children, tackling house robberies, raids in malls and cash heists are some of Cele’s priorities.

He emphasised the importance of police officers understanding the country’s human rights culture, the national development plan pertaining to policing and being familiar with the report of the Marikana Commission.

He said police should be able to handle different situations, like a service-delivery protest or a #FeesMustFall protest.

He said that in situations like in Engcobo last weekend, where armed suspects opened fire at the police, “somebody will be buried and it should not be the police that get buried”.

Cele described his relationship with former president Jacob Zuma, who dismissed him in 2012, as bittersweet. Their connection dates back to apartheid days, when he was an Umkhonto weSizwe underground operative and Zuma was his commander.

Cele says he still intends to clear his name over the Roux Shabangu saga that cost him his job. In fact, he reveals that he started the process of reviewing Moloi’s findings in court and had cited Zuma, Moloi and his two assessors, the then police minister and national police commissioner in the review.

With the exception of Zuma, the others indicated that they would not be defending the case in court, leaving Zuma as the only respondent.

Cele said he had sought to resolve the matter with Zuma outside of court to avoid looking as if he was “going toe-to-toe with the president”.

A few meetings were held with Zuma, but the matter was put on hold and got delayed until the former president departed office last month without resolution.

Cele says neither Madonsela’s nor Moloi’s report indicated he was corrupt.

“There was nothing about fraud, nothing about corruption and nothing about the abuse of monies – only that administrative procedures were not followed. [These are] problems that were generic in government because all departments identify their buildings,” he said.

“The major one was that I knew the owner of the building and I didn’t know Roux Shabangu from a bar of soap. I didn’t know him an inch. I never met him and never heard of him, nothing. I was dealing with what was in front of me,” insisted Cele.

He revealed that the police have acquired a new building and he has been told that it is ready for him to move into. He will call a press conference when he moves to the new space, “so that they don’t say: ‘Mr Building has come back again’”.

That the police have acquired new space seems to be some vindication for Cele, who says this proves there was a need for a new building.

Cele said he has been overwhelmed by the reception he has been getting from ordinary people following his appointment as police minister.

“When I went to Engcobo, I was taken aback. It felt like I was moving with [President Cyril Ramaphosa] when the people saw me there. I felt tears in my eyes,” he said of the cheering and applause that met him ahead of the memorial service for the five officers and soldier slain in the small town.

Read more on:    bheki cele  |  crime  |  ngcobo massacre

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