Stick to crime, not housing, Cele told

Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 27, 2024


Opposition parties and community activists have described Police Minister Bheki Cele’s handover of a house to a family in Delft as blatant electioneering while the community continues to suffer violent crimes.

Cele, police commissioner General Fannie Masemola and other SAPS officials on Monday officiated at the handover of the newly built home to a sibling-headed household.

The SAPS said they identified the family headed by a 22-year-old woman taking care of her 17-year-old brother after they lost both their parents and now survive on social grants.

SAPS said the home refurbishment started at the beginning of January and that, annually, the SAPS goes out of its way to build and donate homes to victims of crime.

“The youth around this home ... I am asking you (to) take responsibility of the safety of this house. I’m giving the safety of this house to you more than the police ... Every one of you must say ‘not here’.

“This is because of the history of the people who will be occupying this house. If you realise the history of the occupants, you will know why ubuntu and humanity is needed here,” Cele said.

“This is a crime-infested area and there must be an extra eye on this house and that any attack on the house or its occupants will be an attack on the entire neighbourhood. The community must say no to criminality and we are asking the community to cushion them.”

Delft resident and community worker Candice van der Rheede said while the community suffered deplorable crime statistics, it was hard to ignore the event as an electioneering campaign.

“When they leave, we are still just statistics to all of the SAPS which does little to nothing to change the situation of violence and crime in the community.

We are still the ones suffering when they leave our communities with their blue lights in tow.

“We have one police station servicing such a large community and the police officer to resident ratio is disgusting.

The crime statistics of Delft can tell you a story of ... the forgotten people in this community, but (they are) now expected to rave about the minister being in the community, doing one good deed ... in the lead-up to elections.

“It is a slap in the face of the community and I hope they see it that way when the hype of today dies down before the elections. They don’t care about us, they want our votes and we are left to still suffer with crime long after they have left,” said Van der Rheede.

Police ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said it was unfortunate and unfounded that a noble event can be misconstrued as electioneering.

“Today’s ongoing housing project forms part of the SAPS’s, and various corporate partners’ social initiatives aimed at creating and improving living conditions of ordinary South Africans, especially those impacted by crime.

“This is not the first, nor will it be the last, house handover. Annually, the SAPS goes out of its way to build and donate homes to victims of crime. It’s been six years of this initiative where the SAPS in collaboration with business donates a house to a needy family.

“This project is part of the Police Day celebration and is also aimed at improving relations between police and the communities,” said Themba.

DA provincial leader Tertuis Simmers said: “This is highly irregular for the Minister of Police to be handing over a house – it can therefore be nothing more than blatant electioneering and exploiting the real needs of poor communities for cheap political points.”

GOOD Party’s secretary-general Brett Herron said the SAPS is a government department responsible for crime prevention and crime detection.

“It is not a private corporate entity with a ‘corporate social responsibility’.

While the people they have helped have tragic and challenging events and experiences to live with and overcome, it is not the police’s role to provide housing ... The spend on housing sounds irregular and the timing is suspicious ... It’s this sort of cynical and cruel pantomime of care that makes voters, especially younger voters, cynical and disillusioned with politics and elections.

Voters are not stupid and these stunts are self-defeating.

“Parties can’t ignore the safety of a community for five years and then turn about a few weeks before the election and give away a house, expecting the community to feel that there is compassion for their living conditions.”

Cele came under fire at the weekend for using a police helicopter at the ANC manifesto launch in Durban. The SAPS, however, defended its use, saying Cele was conducting his constitutional duties.

Cape Times