Bheki Cele has been our Minister of Police for over a year now. At the time the media trumpeted him as a breath of fresh air, taking over from incompetent bunglers like Nathi Nhleko and Fikile Mbalula. Many serving police officers held him in high regard, and he seemed willing to reform the sick and ailing SAPS.
Has Minister Cele achieved anything remarkable since his appointment? Or are we much worse-off under his stewardship? I compiled this brief report card regarding the honourable minister’s performance.
1. Refusal to Solve the Expired Firearm Licence Crisis and Expensive Court Cases
Minister Cele nailed his civilian-disarmament colours to the mast early. He wasn’t even Minister of Police for a month when he came up with this gem:
Nobody wants to see the American situation, where children are killed in classrooms because firearms are allowed to be carried like toys. We’ll have to work very hard to make sure that South Africa is disarmed.
And Minister Cele certainly worked very hard to ensure the disarmament of ordinary South Africans.
Under his administration the SAPS not only failed to seek a solution for the expired firearm licence crisis affecting more than 400 000 citizens, but actually strove to exacerbate it. The SAPS spent millions of Rands opposing the SA Hunters case in the Constitutional Court.
Bear in mind that the SAPS illegally sabotaged their own system in 2016 to make it impossible for DFOs to capture late renewal applications. Hence, the crisis was of the SAPS’s own making.
The SAPS then pretended to negotiate a solution with Gun Owners SA. After fruitlessly dragging the conversation out for months, GOSA finally lost patience with the SAPS and took them to court.
GOSA won their case in the North Gauteng High Court in August 2018, bringing instant relief to nearly half-a-million citizens sitting with expired firearm licences. Instead of accepting the result as a signal to finally solve the problem, the SAPS instead chose to appeal the urgent interdict.
The arrogance of this is astounding. The SAPS are spending in excess of R340 000 000 annually on legal costs. Mostly due to the criminal and abusive behaviour of their own members and management. Yet Minister Cele is happy to blunder forth. And he will likely allow the SAPS to spend many millions more on court battles with citizens. Citizens the SAPS are supposed to serve.
I don’t think it is unreasonable to be appalled and outraged by the practice – the SAPS abuses their powers, and so doing abuse the very public they serve, and when said public takes them to court to seek justice for the criminal mistreatment they suffer at the hands of the police, the accused makes use of the victim’s tax money in order to defend their criminality.
As of writing there has been no indication from Minister Cele’s office that he intends to prioritise solving the expired licence crisis. Or even cease litigation in order to ensure it remains an insurmountable problem.
2. Leaked Draft Proposal to Ban Self-Defence Firearms
In keeping with his aforementioned civilian-disarmament sentiments, Minister Cele’s department compiled what can only be described as a tyrannical FCA draft amendment bill.
Apart from numerous unworkable restrictions on civilian firearm ownership, the proposed bill completely bans licenced firearms for self-defence purposes. In a country that is the 7thmost homicidal nation on Earth, according to the World Bank’s 2016 statistics.
South Africa’s homicide rate increased by 7% in 2017/2018. Cash-in-transit heists increased by 74% since 2015. Violent crime against women and children is experiencing a similar upsurge.
To propose a ban on firearms for self-defence in our country is sheer lunacy.
What does the government aim to achieve with these oppressive proposed amendments?
To ensure restricted access to firearms by civilians to ensure public order.” – Draft amendment to the FCA, 2018
There you have it. The government (and Bheki Cele) are paranoid about civilians owning guns, and they want to ensure that the State has the sole monopoly on armed force. And if this makes it easier for criminals to rob, rape, and murder innocent citizens – tough luck.
3. SAPS Failure to Fulfil Their Constitutional Mandate
You would imagine that if the government is pushing for a ban on self-defence firearms, that they would at the very least have crime under control. This is entirely not the case.
In October 2018, the National Police Commissioner, Lt Gen. Khehla Sitole, told Parliament the following:
Due to the collapse of the National Crime Prevention Strategy the SAPS became an all-purpose agency with an overstretched mandate impossible to fulfil. It is still standing like that in the NDP. I want to repeat: the SAPS mandate is overstretched. Two, it is impossible to fulfil.
This failure by the police to do their jobs certainly impacts on our national crime situation. The national crime statistics confirm as much. Emergency calls to 10111 go unanswered. Police take hours to respond to crimes-in-progress, if they even arrive at all. Firearm losses by the police remain a regular occurrence.
But it gets worse.
4. Non-payment to Service Providers
The SAPS have a history of not paying their service providers. In April 2018 several systems within the SAPS had to be shut down after the police failed to pay Forensic Data Analysts (FDA). Vish Naidoo, the national spokesperson for the SAPS, said that the SAPS had put contingency systems in place. He also claimed that the problem would not compromise service delivery.
The director of FDA, Keith Keating, contradicted this and said that by cutting the police off from using his company’s software, the criminal justice system could collapse. The affected systems included the police’s internal firearm-permit and property-control systems, as well as crime-exhibit management.
The issue came to a head on 2 January this year, when the court ordered the SAPS to return all copies and reproductions of the FDA’s firearm permit system to the company. The police had now illegally been using the system without payment for more than a year. The SAPS frivolously opposed the FDA’s lawsuit against them by contesting the company’s copyright claims on their own system, wasting yet more of tax-payers’ money.
By failing to pay FDA for their system, the police lost track of their own firearms, as well as failed to comply with the law concerning the issuing and use of firearms by police officers. A serious and material charge against SAPS top management. Yet, the issue had to go to court several times before anything came of it. And Minister Cele is missing in action.
5. SAPS Criminality – the Broken Blue Line 3 Report
Public trust in the SAPS is not exactly at an all-time high. And you cannot blame the public for feeling the way they do. The SAPS appears to see Batho Pele as nothing more than an empty and meaningless phrase, as opposed to a central and binding mission statement. The sheer degree of criminality, and failure to prosecute said criminality, within the ranks of the SAPS is shocking.
Criminals are very much active within the SAPS. Their offences range from petty theft, to sexual assault, to collusion with organised criminal syndicates.
In their 2015 report on the issue of criminality in the police, the IRR noted that South Africa was a country where criminal gangs infiltrated the police, rather than the other way round. There is no evidence that this has changed.
What is also of serious concern is the low rate of convictions. A total of 1428 of the 9097 incidents reported in 2017/18 were referred to the NPA. Only 99 of these ended in criminal conviction.
The IPID annual report notes that senior police officers seem to be protected from the consequences of their actions.
Looking at the ceaseless corruption allegations against senior police officers and their immediate underlings, and how little seems to come of it, this observation rings true.
Minister Cele has spent his first year as a servant of the ANC, as opposed to a servant of the public. He has done nothing to solve any of the numerous crises plaguing the police. There has been no purge and prosecution of corrupt police officers. Criminality, incompetence, and bureaucratic arrogance remains a hallmark of the so-called service.
Instead Minister Cele has picked a political fight with the head of IPID, Robert McBride. Neither IPID nor McBride are widely-loved. But the directorate has worked tirelessly to bring corrupt and criminal police officials to book. Minister Cele’s insistence on getting rid of McBride without following due process is unfortunately a character trait of his ministry and the SAPS. It is this heavy-handed and arrogant oafishness that brought the service into crisis and disrepute. And it certainly will not get the SAPS out of the pit it is currently in.
I therefore award Minister Cele a solid F performance rating. Not that he appears to care much about what the public whom he serves thinks of him.
I end with this quote from a policing subject-matter expert.
The only way policing successfully wins the war on crime, is to devolve into a local function. All the way down to the municipal level. And by taking away the centralised power of the Minister of Police, and putting policing back as a servant of the law and an instrument of the community.
Written by Gideon Joubert
Gideon is the owner and editor of Paratus