Politicking and accusations of hypocrisy cloud police's budget debate

While the residents of the Cape Flats continue to live in fear as gang violence rages on, the debate on the police's budget vote descended into politicking and accusations of hypocrisy.

Police Minister Bheki Cele, at the end of Thursday evening's debate, announced that the South African National Defence Force would be deployed to the Western Cape's ganglands.

Earlier, Cele said the anti-gang unit would be elevated to a national unit, adding he wanted a national approach to fighting gangsterism.

"Chairperson, we are confronted with the sad reality of more burial activities in cemeteries than newborns in maternity wards. The recurring scenes of scattered dead bodies in the streets of Philippi, Mitchells Plain and Nyanga are unbearable," he said. 

"It is on that score that I challenge all generals in the SAPS to surrender their uniforms if this situation does not improve. The battle ahead of us requires a dedicated and selfless workforce that is equal to the task." 

Cele said six of the 10 police stations with the highest murder rate was in the Western Cape, eliciting heckles from the DA benches. 

He added the fight against crime was not just a policing matter.

"The environmental design in the historical disadvantaged communities, especially in the Western Cape, hinders effective policing. Our police officers are expected to effectively police highly densely populated areas where there are no roads, no street addresses, no street lights, and no street cameras," Cele said.

The chairperson of the portfolio committee on police and ANC MP, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said the "Western Cape belongs to all who live in it, black and white", adding there was a need for a new social compact.

DA MP Andrew Whitfield said Cele's "shameful hypocrisy" should be addressed.

He added every time there was a killing or funeral, Cele showed up with a bigger media entourage than his predecessor, Fikile Mbalula.

"I would like to begin by extending my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of last weekend’s horrific violence in Philippi," Whitfield said.

In the Western Cape, he added, the provincial ratio of residents per police officer had fallen from one to 385 to one to 509. 

Whitfield said he had visited Hanover Park earlier on Thursday. 

"In fact, I saw more police vans parked outside this precinct this afternoon than I did this morning in Hanover Park.

"Perhaps the minister and I will agree on this one point that the crime situation in the Western Cape has reached crisis proportions. Why else would he have convened an emergency meeting with the justice cluster earlier this week," Whitfield said. 

"The question though is why has the minister waited for a bloodbath in order to convene this emergency meeting and why does the minister continue to ignore the Western Cape government's repeated reasonable appeals for increased police officers and more support from the SAPS?"

DA MP Okkie Terblanche, himself a former general in the police, said crime levels in South Africa were unacceptable but could be turned around with the DA's strategy. 

In his response at the end of the debate, Cele said Terblanche had "ran a very corrupt unit of the police". He withdrew this statement after an objection.

At a press briefing after the debate, where he is not protected by parliamentary privilege, Cele said he was police commissioner during Terblanche's time.

"I knew what he did last Christmas," he added.

Replying to the debate, Cele also accused Whitfield of hypocrisy for expressing his sympathies on a public platform, while he had not visited the families.

At the press conference after the debate, Cele disputed the fact that the Western Cape was under-resourced, saying it was the third best-resourced province in the country.

He then referred to Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels who said: "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will start to believe it."

"This Goebbels politics must come to an end," Cele added.

Responding to a question about his relationship with the Western Cape government, he said there have been three MECs for community policing in the Western Cape during his tenure as minister of police.

Cele added he did not work too well with Alan Winde, who has since become the province's premier, but he worked well with current MEC Albert Fritz, but according to Cele "over the last few weeks he has been a little bit faulty". 

"I don’t think we have to love one another, we just have to work together for the sake of the people." 

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