Police minister Bheki Cele parades around beaches with a coterie of senior officers to yell at the occasional surfer, boater, or bikini-clad sunbather. At the same time, police stand impotently by while people are killed, beheaded, and burnt.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have come at a surprise. What was the best that could happen when President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a minister of police who was so dodgy that even former President Jacob Zuma fired him?
Bheki Cele has no qualifications whatsoever to lead or oversee the South African Police Service. He is a teacher by profession. Perhaps fittingly, he treats citizens like naughty schoolchildren.
A jumped-up little martinet, his patrols of beaches in the Western Cape resemble nothing so much as a headmaster sneaking around behind the back of the outbuildings to catch illicit smokers in the act.
Witness the honourable minister posing for photo opportunities overlooking the empty beaches of Mossel Bay, pointing accusingly at a couple of jet skiers and some people who took their leisure boat out to sea, presumably to catch some prize Covid behind the surf.
He is always surrounded by a platoon of police officers, several of which are styled ‘general’ after Cele reintroduced military ranks to the police. Even then, he is not up to the gruelling task of being the chief beach warden.
Storming the beaches
Reportedly, ‘suspects’ that have been arrested for disregarding beach closure regulations on the West Coast were European tourists. Presumably this put Cele in mind of a foreign invasion force storming our beaches, so he called upon the South African National Defence Force to send in the troops.
While Cele was busy trading niceties with local councillors and random tourists in sleepy coastal towns, over in Shalcross, south of Durban, an alleged drug lord who goes by the suggestive moniker Teddy Mafia – real name, Yaganathan Pillay – got shot.
His lieutenants, helpfully identified by police brigadier Jay Naicker as ‘the community’, apprehended the killers, shot them, hacked off their heads, and burnt their bodies in the street.
The police were called to the scene, as one might expect, but they could only stand and watch while ‘community members’ kept them at a distance by pelting stones at them.
Perhaps it is no wonder that people are losing faith in the police. As explained by Gerbrandt van Heerden of the Centre for Risk Analysis, fewer and fewer people even bother to report crimes to the police anymore.
The number of crime victims who report crimes to the police is low and declining, according to the results of the Stats SA Victims of Crime Survey published on 1 December 2020.
The number of house robbery victims who failed to report any incidents to the police increased from 40.1% in 2018/19 to 45.5% in 2019/20. Only about half of all housebreaking incidents are reported, with 51.8% in 2018/19 and 48.3% in 2019/20 failing to report any incidents to the police.
Motor vehicle theft is often reported for insurance purposes, but even then, the number of victims who reported none of their incidents skyrocketed from 13.7% to 21.3% in the year under investigation.
Only a third of people report theft of personal property to the police. Four in ten report street robbery, which is about the same as the number of victims who report assault to the police. Only a quarter of consumer fraud victims reported any cases to the police, down from almost half the year before.
The percentage of people who reported sexual offences against them plummeted to 60% from 88% the year before.
Years ago, when I still lived in Johannesburg, I was tied up at knifepoint and robbed by three men while at home. I was lucky not to get my throat cut. While the police were taking my statement, a call came in on their radios about a similar robbery only a block or two away, with suspects that fitted the description. I drew their attention to this, thinking they would drop everything and race after the suspects, but no, they morosely continued with the laborious task of badly paraphrasing my testimony.
Six months later, I received a call from the police, asking whether I would like the case to be investigated. Needless to say, my own confidence in the competence of the police to investigate crimes and catch perpetrators did not improve.
Van Heerden points to the shock acquittal of the two accused in the Coligny murder trial as a case in point. Pieter Doorewaard and Philip Schutte were convicted of the gruesome assault and murder of the 17-year-old Matlhomola Mosweu, allegedly after the victim was caught stealing sunflowers. In November last year, the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions, citing incompetence in the police investigation as a reason.
The frequent burning of trucks on South Africa’s highways is another reminder that the police simply do not have a handle on crime. After the latest incident, the acting provincial commissioner, Major-General Patricia Rampota, reportedly ordered ‘the urgent mobilisation of maximum resources towards finding the perpetrators responsible’.
What has this massive investigation uncovered six weeks later? Bupkes.
Watching Bheki Cele prance about the beaches looking for girls in bikinis to harass cannot possibly contribute to the confidence that the public has in the police. Bedecked in a snazzy befeathered fedora, Cele prefers the media spotlight to be on him and his ‘generals’ cracking the whip on petty crime, rather than on the failure of the police to combat serious crime.
More than ten years ago, Cele told his minions ‘shape up or ship out’, ‘stomach in, chest out’, and ‘when you walk down the street, people must envy your body’. Today, Cele’s officers need taxpayer-funded quadbikes to pursue the sunbathing criminals they discover on their beach patrols.
Why this self-centred petty tyrant occupies the exalted and richly remunerated office of Minister of Police is a mystery. It certainly isn’t to make any of us safer.
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR
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