Bheki Cele must go

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
06 Sep 2022 in News

Note to Editors: Please find attached English soundbite by John Steenhuisen MP and isiXhosa soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

There is no organisation, structure or business outside of the ANC government that would not have fired Police Minister Bheki Cele years ago had he been employed by them. It is only in this ANC government that a man who has presided over one of the worst violent crime waves outside of a war zone, would still be rewarded with the perks, pay and power of a cabinet position. He is a danger to society and he must be fired. Bheki Cele must go.

Our march today carries the backing of the more than 33 000 people who have signed our petition to get rid of Bheki Cele, as well as the many thousands more who have signed various other petitions or voiced their disgust on other forums. What unites all these people – and what sets them apart from the members of the ANC government – is that they have to face the murderers, rapists and robbers on their own. They don’t have the luxury of VIP Protection Units or State-sponsored home security upgrades. To add insult to injury, not only is Cele unable to protect people but he also doesn’t want to let DA governments step in to protect them instead.

Minister Cele’s failings are far more than just another embarrassing blot on the ANC government’s report card. His failings have cost the lives, the dignity and the security of countless South Africans. When viewed together, the litany of failures on his watch as Police Minister makes for shocking reading, and it is a shameful indictment on President Ramaphosa that he has not held Cele accountable a long time ago.

It is telling that, despite all his lofty promises to combat crime, to reduce the murder rate and to protect women and children from gender-based violence, President Ramaphosa cannot bring himself to rid South Africa of its most dangerously incompetent cabinet minister. Unity in the ANC trumps everything – even the lives of thousands of South African citizens – which is why Ramaphosa didn’t hesitate for a second to offer Cele his full backing during last week’s Questions to the President in the National Assembly.

The latest crime figures – the only true gauge of whether a Police Minister is doing his job or not – paint the grimmest of pictures. Every day in South Africa 67 people are murdered, 153 people are raped and 364 violent robberies occur. These numbers, coupled with an unacceptably low conviction rate, are an indication of a government that has lost the war on crime, and for this defeat the buck must stop with the Police Minister. He cannot remain in his job another day.

Some more sobering data from the latest crime stats reveal that, in the last quarter, 855 women and 243 children were murdered – an increase of 53.2% and 46.4% respectively. During the same period, 11 734 cases of assault with grievous bodily harm were reported against women, and 1 670 cases against children – an increase of 54.7% and 58.4% respectively. This confirms that all the solemn promises made by the minister and the president vowing to combat the scourge of GBV are nothing but lip service.

But these horrifying crime stats alone only paint part of the picture. Bheki Cele also sat on his hands throughout the July 2021 riots and did nothing to prevent this attempted insurrection, which cost hundreds of lives and an estimated R50 billion. In any functioning democracy, such a useless Police Minister would immediately be dismissed.

Then there is the destruction of the SAPS reservist programme by his hand, which has seen police reservist numbers drop by 90% in the past decade, from more than 50 000 in 2012 to less than 4 500 today. The biggest drops in these numbers happened during his last year as SAPS National Commissioner, and his first year as Police Minister. His clear targeting and destruction of this vital crime fighting tool has put millions at risk, and has no doubt cost many lives.

Add to this the crisis of the massive DNA backlog – to date there are over 150 000 DNA samples yet to be processed – and his disgraceful recent comment that a young rape victim in Krugersdorp was lucky to be raped by only one man when others were gang-raped by multiple men, and it is clear that his position as minister is untenable. He has given up even pretending to take the war on crime seriously and he has to be fired.

While it is critical that Cele be replaced by a competent Police Minister, DA governments aren’t going to wait for changes to happen in national government. We will continue to fight for greater policing powers in competent metros, as Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis is currently doing. On 18 August he wrote to both Minister Cele and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, requesting this Constitutionally-permitted devolution of policing powers to the City of Cape Town.

South Africa is – and has been for many years – in the midst of a crime crisis. However much President Ramaphosa and his government would like to downplay and normalise this situation, we can never allow this to happen. We must do everything in our power to tilt the scales back in favour of the people of South Africa, and to rid our country of this terrible scourge. That starts with firing this useless Police Minister.

Bheki Cele must go.