Cele versus the DA: Smallanyana skeletons crop up in SONA debate

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Police Minister Bheki Cele. (Adrian de Kock)
Police Minister Bheki Cele. (Adrian de Kock)

Police Minister Bheki Cele laid down the law to DA interim leader John Steenhuisen and the DA-run City of Cape Town, but the party remembered some smallanyana skeletons on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Steenhuisen reiterated the DA's call that policing be devolved to provincial level during the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address (SONA).

"You could have announced that some of the powers of the police will be devolved to provinces and metros in line with international best practice. Because it makes sense for those closest to communities to be tasked with their protection," he said to Ramaphosa.

On Wednesday, Cele responded when it was his turn to participate in the debate.

'You're a disaster'

He said if he was participating in a high school debate, he would have said he was "flabbergasted".

According to Cele, the City had not utilised the R5bn it had been handed.

He said crime was caused by environmental design, and some of Cape Town's areas' environmental design was particularly bad, which was why those areas have a high crime rate.

"I'm glad you're the interim leader," Cele said to Steenhuisen. "I hope you don't become permanent [leader]. You're a disaster."

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Steenhuisen replied jovially: "It's the best endorsement I have ever received for my campaign."

Cele continued that he had spoken with Western Cape Premier Alan Winde the day before. "He understands matters much better than you."

He said the City's policing structure was "outside legislative structures" as metro police officers do not have the required documentation, and they have been working to "put them within the law".

Cele added metro police officers were "just a group of thugs who are unaccountable" and should be "put in prison with their leaders".

Speaking after Cele, DA MP Leon Schreiber said: "It's quite a disgrace hearing the minister of police attacking the City for trying to keep people safe."

Schreiber pointed out Ramaphosa had built a multimillion-rand mansion in Cape Town, suggesting he moved to the Western Cape because of better service delivery.

DA MP Solly Malatsi was the sweeper - a party's final speaker in the debate who responds to other members' speeches.

He said Cele had one of the shortest stints as national police commissioner.

He added it was the peak of irony for "someone who has been hobnobbing with Gavin Watson and Roux Shabangu" to preach to the DA about legality.

Malatsi said what Cele was not saying about his meeting with Winde was that the national police commissioner had signed off on the documentation which metro police officers required.

In 2015, Cele was pictured with former president Jacob Zuma and Dudu Myeni, late Bosasa boss Gavin Watson and Bosasa staff at the corruption accused company's headquarters in Krugersdorp. Cele was fired as national police commissioner in 2012 by Zuma after a report found he had acted dishonestly and with an undeclared conflict of interest in relation to two police lease deals he had signed with businessman Shabangu.

The report has since been overturned by the court.

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