Durban - Tough-talking Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has instructed officers to go for the groin when dealing with criminals.
Addressing hand-picked members of the Tactical Response Team (TRT) and tracking units, Mbalula warned of drastic action against murderers, rapists, drug dealers, hijackers and armed gangs. He also urged escaped dangerous prisoners to hand themselves in at the nearest police station because the police were coming for them.
Mbalula made his remarks at the SAPS's Pretoria West training academy on Friday, where he was launching the elite TRT and tracking units.
“We resuscitate this team in Gauteng, precisely because we want to respond accurately and decisively against criminals.
"I’m saying to you, our men and women of the police TRT, they must p**s and drink it, the criminals. Do you hear me? What did I say?” Mbalula asked the platoons of police standing before him, mixing English and isiXhosa.
The officers responded in unison: “Let them p**s and drink it.”
Declaring “war on criminals”, Mbalula said the units would be rolled out across the country as he instructed members of the TRT to “crush the criminals’ balls”.
“I don’t want to see you only in taverns. I want to see you everywhere, where criminals think they are in charge.
"I want to see you on the highways, wherever criminals congest and come together, we must unsettle them. We must squeeze them,” he said.
“If they have balls, we must crush them. We must crush their balls.
"(For) the other opposite sex, I wouldn’t say what we must do because women in our country are not criminals,” said Mbalula.
In notes for his speech, he said six of the units in KZN would immediately focus on ending the political murders that ran the risk of politically killing democracy, adding that killers-for-hire and those who commissioned them, irrespective of their political stations and roles, had to be squeezed.
Mbalula’s tough talk comes after the release by Stats SA of the Victims of Crime 2016/17 survey that found 7% of households were victims of crime compared with 9% in the previous year. Nationally, hijacking of vehicles and sexual assault cases had increased sharply.
In KZN, the number of households experiencing crime had risen marginally from 7.5% to 7.8%.
Reacting to the crime survey, community police forums in the Greater Durban area said where crime had dropped, their efforts had made the difference.
uMbilo’s Thabo Kadikadi said good co-operation between community and police had led to fewer incidents and that places were hit less frequently “when we close loopholes”.
Smash and grabs had reduced as a result of people parking their cars inside properties rather than on the street, he said.
“The criminals talk to one another,” he added, explaining that news of closing loopholes spread fast.
Catching individual criminals such as the notorious “Spiderman,” who entered factories through their roofs, also reduced repeated hits on the same places.
Chatsworth CPF chairmanperson Jakes Singh said “active citizenship” in their area helped to deter criminals.
“On Friday night, there will be up to 70 vehicles gathering at our community hall and our patrols are ongoing. There is movement and activity on the streets and the CPF sub-forums, neighbourhood watches and community members all work together. We also have a good relationship with our law enforcement agencies.
"We deal with our stats on a daily basis, we know the hotspots and identify our patrols with that in mind,” said Singh.
He added that hijackings had been greatly reduced, while housebreaking remained the main concern. “We suspect the housebreaking cases are often carried out by drug addicts who steal for a quick fix,” he said.
Kloof CPF chairperson Corné Broodryk said they had seen a massive increase in housebreakings and house robberies, ascribing it to “big retrenchments” across the province. Rake Jeeves from Community Oriented Policing on the Bluff said they followed crime patterns in the area to catch the criminals. “We have been very successful with arrests by following trends and patterns.
"We have patrols with a high-visibility unit and have reaction unit members who will work at night and be waiting for the criminals. We arrested a guy a week ago who was out on bail for a string of other cases.”
Jeeves said criminals using stolen cars, fake licence plates or no licence plates continued to be a problem.
But reacting to Mbalula’s fiery rhetoric on a criminal clampdown, veteran political violence monitor in KZN Mary de Haas, said Friday night: “There’s a lot of police abuse out there. It will be an incentive to police who are already inclined to do that sort of thing. There is a tremendous amount of abuse at the moment. Usually it’s done by suffocating so there is little sign of anything having happened.
“It’s a bit like 'shoot to kill' (which former deputy safety and security minister Susan Shabangu was famous for saying). It brings other problems. If an accused proves having been abused, the case is ruined.
“I’ve known good policemen who have got high court convictions and done them without performing abuse. The police are just badly trained. So many are resorting to torture, adding fuel to fire.
“It would not be so bad if the Independent Police Investigative Directorate were getting convictions,” said De Haas.
The DA’s Dianne Kohler Barnard, deputy spokesperson for police, said Mbalula’s statements “encourage violent conduct and follow in the footsteps of his disgraced predecessors, Susan Shabangu and Bheki Cele.
“His comments are even more disgraceful considering the findings contained in Stats SA’s Victims of Crime Survey released earlier this week, which pointed to a distinct distrust of the SAPS by victims of crime.”
She called on Mbalula to apologise for his “inappropriate, juvenile comments” and demanded “he takes a strong line against police brutality”.