Police Minister Fikile Mbalula. File photo: ANA

Johannesburg - Police Minister Fikile Mbalula needs to resign immediately as he is "sinking to the same level of morality as the violent criminals he is attacking and legitimising the very lawlessness that he is supposed to be fighting", the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said on Saturday.

Saftu was disgusted by Mbalula's conduct in Cape Town on Friday, October 6, the trade union federation said in a statement.

"In a desperate attempt to try to pretend that he is acting rather than just talking about the appalling levels of crime in the city [Cape Town] he presided over the ‘arrest’ of 10 entirely innocent people and subjected them to brutal ill-treatment," Saftu said.

Police detained eight men - and later another two - who were trussed up with cable ties and made to lie on the ground for three hours while police sent out a press release and pictures about their "protracted investigation”, claiming they had "pounced" on a vehicle and arrested suspects linked to the previous weekend's shootings in Marikana informal settlement in Cape Town in which 11 people were killed.

Read: WATCH: We're here to catch all the skelms, says Mbalula

Then Mbalula himself arrived at the scene and later posted pictures of the trussed men on Twitter and boasted to his million Twitter followers about the "midnight criminal space shake up", Saftu said. 

But it turned out that the "suspects" were all members of a family transporting a coffin containing a dead relative to his funeral in the Eastern Cape and all were released without charge and freed on that Sunday night.

The men were detained at Cape Town Central police station over the weekend, where they claimed they were beaten by the police and labelled “killers". They were raising money for a lawyer and vowed to sue the police for wrongful arrest and humiliation. The group missed the funeral and lost the money they paid for transport.

"What makes the minster’s conduct even worse is that his tweet was published after the police press statement on the arrests had been withdrawn," Saftu said.

Saftu had already condemned Mbalula’s "inflammatory and vulgar" remarks to police members “to do what they were notorious for‚ kicking down doors and dishing out dizzying blows”‚ and assured them that he would deal with the courts... "Even if you do not have a warrant of arrest‚ slap them. Break the law progressively and let me worry about court cases”.

"As we said, these words show that he is sinking to the same level of morality as the violent criminals he is attacking and legitimising the very lawlessness that he is supposed to be fighting. If even the police can freely 'break the law progressively' and 'dish out dizzying blows' they become part of the problem of crime rather than the solution," Saftu said.

"These events in Cape Town justify Saftu’s warning in the most outrageous fashion - that some police would take his comments literally, and this is exactly what happened. They did break the law and far from condemning them the minister rushed to congratulate them on a blatantly illegal and criminal attack on innocent people without a shred of evidence."

His conduct had done immense damage to the standing of the police, especially in the poorest communities where the police were already perceived to be ineffective and in some areas of even being in the pocket of criminals. 

Mbalula's remarks and his conduct would reinforce all these negative perceptions and the only ones celebrating would be the criminal gangs. "His term of office has been a disaster. He must resign immediately and it he refuses he must be dismissed. The only crisis we face is that person [President Jacob Zuma] who hired him is himself not fit to be in office," Saftu said. 
African News Agency