Police Minister Bheki Cele

PRETORIA - Elected politicians should in the frontline of addressing communities concerns, particularly where there is unrest, instead of putting the South African Police Service (SAPS) on collision course with the members of the public – a situation which often results in violent clashes.

“Councillors and mayors should be where people are toyi-toying for service delivery. You [Councillors and mayors] don’t go there, cause trouble with the community and you begin to ask where are the police, where are the police,” Cele said to applause at the launch of national Public Order Policing (POP) reserve units in Pretoria. 

"They have to do their job. Councillors and mayors will have to do their jobs and not overwork our police for their own mistakes.

“As such, we have been engaging with the relevant ministers, including the minister of COGTA [cooperative governance and traditional affairs] to say all people in government must do their jobs and not abuse the police. 

"Indeed, you are the last line of defence but at the same time I expect nobody to abuse you. We defend you [politicians] where it is necessary. You behave, and you will be highly defended by us. But do your job.”

Cele charged members of the SAPS to be apolitical as they do their work, and to refuse political pressure to carry out political tasks. 

“You must refuse to be used as a political tool. You are not here for that. Yours is to look and take care of the South African public. You don’t ask political affiliations of those people you will be working with," said Cele. 

"Just go there, you look at their faces as South Africans and you deal with them as such. Don’t go there and ask – what or which organisation is protesting here. That is not yours, and I can assure you that you will not survive our response to that kind of behaviour. Don’t do that,” said Cele emphatically.

The deployment of the new POP units, which deal with crowd control and communities unrest, on Friday coincided with the unleashing of the new generation of the armoured personnel carrier of the SAPS, the Nyala. 

The new POP units, made up of young police officers, will be deployed in different provinces, particularly Gauteng and the Western Cape, with the aim of increasing police personnel at station level to maintain law and order.

Cele appealed to the police officers to be gentle when dealing with the aggrieved communities, and use minimum force. 

“This unit, it is important that it maintains its agility and its best ways of responding. We must remember that this unit is at the cold face of the communities, and must be able to work with the communities in a softer way, rather than other units that are at the cold face of criminals,” said Cele. 

"When you are called most of the times, you are not called to respond to criminals. You are called to respond to the communities that have issues, and they have constitutional rights to have issues and to raise them the way they want to raise them with the authorities.

“Yours is to go there and maintain order, and ensure that they don’t get out of their way by causing trouble and damage to property, to personnel, and community in that particular area. 

"Remember that your own force is very, very minimal when you do this kind of job, dealing direct with the communities. That does not mean you have to endanger yourselves, but do not also endanger the communities that you will be working with.”

African News Agency/ANA