An open letter to Police Minister Bheki Cele

Dear Minister of Police, Mr Bheki Cele.

Over the years I have followed you everywhere you go in my area of work and listened to your rhetoric on crime.

In all the years that you have been a minister of police you have been vocal about ending crime, but dololo. In the years that you have been a minister you’ve promised us clean streets with no crime. It seems to me that you may have bitten off more than you can chew.

Mhlekazi, the recent number of killings in Khayelitsha should be an eye-opener to you. This happened just a day after you released your quarterly crime stats. Nkosi, if you recall crime stats have been provided since 1994, and this is not the first time these kinds of killings have happened in Khayelitsha.

You visited so many homes of the deceased and you’ve promised a lot of good things but people continue to die at the end of a barrel of a gun.

You have seen the build-up to the mass killings in our areas. You have been told about the extortionists or protection fee teams in Khaya and elsewhere. You responded by saying you have formed a task team and that it would soon deliver.

But the only delivery we’re seeing is that of more dead bodies.

I am sure you have been asking yourself where are all these guns are coming from. Who supplies the 14- to 16-year-olds with such weapons? These are the questions many of us have been asking.

When you announced that Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Delft, Nyanga, Gugulethu, Harare, Philippi East, Samora Machel and Mitchell’s Plain were among the police stations country-wide where the most murders were reported, I was not shocked and surely people from these areas were also not shocked because there was nothing new to what you were saying. This is what people from these areas have been telling you. You were just repeating it on television for those who do know, to know. Actually you were embarrassing yourself and your department.

It would be disrespectful of me to say you are a useless minister.

But I will say that you are a reactionary minister who is happy to visit the victims of crime.

You fly all over the country to visit the families of killed police officers in Delft, Mfuleni, Nyanga, Manenberg, Bonteheuwel and uMlazi while knowing very well that the murder of these officers is but part of a string of violent crimes in these areas.

Why don’t you put measures in place to ensure stability in such areas? You have given us stats every year, but it seems you have learned nothing from them.

Your stats are boring and predictable. Even before you start speaking, we know who will be leading in crimes: Nyanga and uMlazi in Durban. The question from me would be, for all these years, what are you doing about the leaders in crime?

You’ve pointed to an overall decline of 8.5% in contact crimes including assault, sexual offences, common assault and robbery during the quarter, with only two criminal types in this category recording an increase.

The average guy in Khayelitsha will tell you this is not true. A mother who sells sweets in Samora Machel, will tell you that you are out of your mind. Nad mna I will tell you you’ve lost touch with reality. Big mouth as I am, I do not know how you will intensify the fight against crime. But I can advise you to urge your police stations to be truthful in recording the crimes. I can say you need more police personnel in most of these police stations. In your recent quarterly stats, your statisticians might be correct but the recording of the crimes might be wrong.

When you tell us that cases of assault decreased by 9%, I would like to believe you. But, Minister let me tell you, no one feels safe – not on the streets and not even inside their homes and especially not women and girls.

I hear you crediting the decrease in crime to effective policing. Where is this effective policing? Police stations are understaffed and will never be effective for as long as one detective has a caseload of more than 100.

Mhlekazi, I urge you to improve your ability and that of your police management to monitor police stations and provide oversight.

During the hard lockdown, when you were vocal about alcohol, my daughter thought you were the president of the country. And you could be if you were as vocal about illegal guns on the streets as you were about alcohol.

∎ Police Minister, General Bheki Cele, presented the quarterly crime statistics, for the period between January 1 and March 31, on Friday May 14. The statistics reflect the crime levels during the time when the country was under Lockdown Level 3 and Adjusted Level 1 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.