A lot has been said about Police Minister Bheki Cele’s penchant for being a busy bee and attending to any crime scene where there are cameras. A teacher by profession, Cele missed his calling, but politics delivered him to his first love: policing.
He previously brought us the feared amaberete (tactical response team) as a former police commissioner before he was sacked for his involvement in the police lease scandal.
Many South Africans were overjoyed when he was appointed police minister, believing he would make criminals quake in their boots.
Unfortunately, crime seems to be embedded in our country, and Cele and his troops seem overwhelmed. Copper cable theft, drug trafficking, vehicle hijackings, rape, murder and armed robberies are the order of the day.
When KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng went up in flames in July last year, the police response was tardy and ineffectual. Cele was nowhere to be seen. When he resurfaced, he was to blame his then counterpart in the State Security Agency, Ayanda Dlodlo, for not furnishing his office with intelligence ahead of the lootings.
When former president Jacob Zuma played hard and fast with the judiciary last year, Cele and his troops folded their arms when Zuma’s supporters brandished firearms outside his compound.
When angry farmers torched a police vehicle outside a magistrate’s court in Senekal, Free State, the police ran for cover while Cele praised them for their restraint and avoiding mayhem.
This week, Cele rushed to the scene of the murder of former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee’s daughter, Hillary, in Mpumalanga.
True to form, the minister gave the police less than 72 hours to find the killer/s.
When the new national commissioner, Fannie Masemola, was appointed in March, commentators asked Cele to allow the career policeman to guide police operations instead of taking the lead in investigations, as he did with his predecessor, Khehla Sitole. However, indications are that Cele is not about to let a photo opportunity pass him by.
It remains to be seen whether Hillary’s murder case will be solved in time to regain public confidence. The victim’s family has already accused the police of “gross incompetence” for missing vital clues, such as the gunshot wound in the back of her head.
Hopefully, the police will not bungle this case as they did with Senzo Meyiwa’s 2014 killing. Cele should let his lieutenants do their job and stop playing to the gallery.
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