Durban — President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended Minister of Police Bheki Cele and said he understands what Cele meant when he said police must shoot first and ask questions later.
This was revealed in a recent parliamentary written question by DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube, who asked Ramaphosa what he had done to reprimand Cele after he made the comment on November 15.
Gwarube also asked Ramaphosa what he had done to ensure that the statement did not incite police officers to commit violence.
Gwarube called Cele’s statement a grossly irresponsible utterance.
After making that statement, Cele, during the Ministerial Crime Prevention Imbizo at Harding in KwaZulu-Natal, told community members that he was sticking to what he had said.
He said criminals do not laugh or smile with anyone, so why should the police do that.
“When there is a shoot-out between the police and criminals, the person who should be dead is a criminal. We cannot go to that scene and collect the corpses of police personnel,” said Cele.
Furthermore, he said that if his statement called for him to be prosecuted, so be it.
This was not the first time the police minister uttered such words. Previously he had received a lot of criticism from the political parties.
In Ramaphosa’s response to the parliamentary question, he said fighting crime had come at a cost for members of the SAPS across the country. He mentioned that 22 police officers were killed between July and September last year.
“Taking this into account, I am informed that the intention of the minister was to call on SAPS members to defend themselves from criminals whenever they are under attack.
“The intention was thus not to incite police officers to commit violence but to defend themselves when under attack with the appropriate and proportionate use of force and within the confines of the law,” said the president.
During the SAPS commemoration day, Ramaphosa said 187 suspects had been arrested in connection with the murders of police officials since 2018, with 55 convicted and sentenced during the same period.
Ramaphosa said all perpetrators must be brought to book and commended the police for their work in arresting those who murdered their colleagues. During this day the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said it would celebrate a decrease in the number of officers’ names being added to the wall of remembrance.