Cele on SAPS tattoo comments: 'It's part of the recruitment policy, I don't know why it is making noise'

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Police Minister Bheki Cele address residents of Lahlumlenze, Nomzamo in Orlando East.
Police Minister Bheki Cele address residents of Lahlumlenze, Nomzamo in Orlando East.
Photo by Christopher Moagi
  • Police Minister Bheki Cele says the police do not hire candidates who have tattoos because "they have a tendency of being gangsters".
  • Cele told Radio 702 on Wednesday the no-tattoo rule was contained in SAPS' recruitment policy.
  • His statement came after he assured residents that police visibility in Orlando East would be improved after 16 people were killed in an attack on a tavern.

Police Minister Bheki Cele says he doesn't understand why there is "noise" following his comment that a person with tattoos can't join the police.

Cele spoke on The Clement Manyathela Show on Radio 702 on Wednesday morning.

"It is one of the standard operations of the police that when you have tattoos, you don't join the police," Cele said.

The SAPS recruitment policy states that members should "not have a tattoo which will be visible if the person wears a uniform".

The radio interview came after Cele made comments about tattoos during a visit to Soweto. He assured residents of Orlando East that police visibility in the area would be improved after unknown gunmen killed 16 people in a mass shooting at an Orlando tavern on Sunday morning.

Twenty-three people were shot inside the Mdlalose tavern in Orlando East.

Twelve were killed on the scene, four more died in hospital, and eight wounded patrons were still recovering in surgical wards in nearby hospitals.

READ | Cele brings in top dogs for door-to-door blitz on illegal guns as families recall Soweto massacre

Cele said the police would recruit and select suitable candidates to serve as police officers. He said all applicants would be subjected to fitness, psychometric and integrity testing, as well as medical evaluations during the recruitment, selection and enlistment process.

"When you have a tattoo, we don't hire you because you have a tendency of being a gangster," he said at the time.

On Wednesday, during his interview, Manyathela asked the minister if he believed people with tattoos tended to be gangsters.

Cele said he had raised the issue before that job seekers couldn't join the police if they had tattoos.

The minister said:

… it has been announced time and again. I think on the [recruitment policy] list of dos and don'ts, I think it is number eight. It is part of the recruitment policy. I don't know why it is making noise at the present moment.

When Manyathela pressed him on the issue, Cele said: "I said you don't join. That kind of policy came from that understanding. I was repeating what has been said time and again. If you ask me personally, I have my own thinking on that, but there (in Soweto), I was announcing why you can't join when you have tattoos."

Manyathela again asked: "So, in the recruitment policy, it says no tattoos because people with tattoos tend to be gangsters?"

"I understood it to be the reason. If somebody told you otherwise, that's okay," Cele responded.

Cele also said he could not decide if the policy was sensible, adding that it would need to be looked at.

A female officer had previously been under fire after she reportedly shared an image of herself while in police uniform with a visible tattoo, on her Instagram.

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