Police Minister Bheki Cele inspecting the damaged Pan Afrika Mall in Alexandra. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS
Police Minister Bheki Cele inspecting the damaged Pan Afrika Mall in Alexandra. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

SA Is Burning: Questions around Bheki Cele’s visibility on the ground

By Ntombi Nkosi Time of article published Jul 13, 2021

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Police Minister Bheki Cele was finally seen on the ground on Tuesday, a number of days since the start of widespread looting of shops, burning of trucks and shopping malls.

Cele has in the past few days been accused of not being visible enough.

Crime expert from IRS Forensic Investigations Chad Thomas said that there was a need to see more senior operational leadership from SAPS and the SANDF on the ground to give guidance to the police members and soldiers on the front lines.

“The SAPS and the SANDF are trying their best to bring the situation under control. The lack of numbers of police officers and soldiers per capita is cause for concern and we don’t reach the international standard in regard to the number of police officers needed to police a population of close to 60 million inhabitants,” said Thomas.

When asked whether Cele should be on the ground trying to calm protesters, Thomas said that he (Cele) did not think that this was a good idea.

“The situation is extremely volatile and it wouldn’t make sense to have political leaders on the ground, they can call for calm using the media as a forum to communicate with the masses. What we do need to see is the expertise of senior experienced law enforcement officers as well as military leadership on the ground leading from the front,” he said.

Thomas added that the private security industry could play a bigger role if formally requested to do so.

“Security personnel have played a massive role in support of the state security structures. Section 47 of the Criminal Procedure Act states that the police can instruct anyone to assist them in the execution of their duties, specifically in arresting or detaining suspects.

“My view is that the security companies should be formally requested to render assistance with cordons and perimeter security where operations are taking place so as to allow the police and military to go in and quell the unrest with the private security companies offering a supporting role on the peripheries,” said Thomas.

Police Minister Bheki Cele inspecting the damaged Pan Afrika Mall in Alexandra. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Visiting Alexandra Cele issued a stern warning to the residents.

“Go and sleep early. I don't want to see you guys at 9pm or there is going to be trouble. The damage has been done, I concede, but now we need to focus on the preventative measures,” said Cele.

Cele said about 45 people died due to the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, while about 757 suspects had been arrested.

Mobs stormed a number of major malls and shopping centres, looting anything they could carry off, especially food and electrical appliances.

Cele said they have enough teams of SAPS and SANDF to curb further looting.

Cele said they have a list of about 12 South Africans who have been identified as instigators of the social media war.

“Many people don’t even know former president Jacob Zuma, they don’t know why they are participating in this criminal activity. We have identified 12 South Africans who are instigated, we are after them. Losing 45 people is not good but it could have been more people.

The South African Policing Union (SAPU) called on South Africans to stand up against criminals who call themselves protesters.

SAPU is calling for the urgent revival of local policing forum structures in order for them to work with the police. The resurgence of Community Police Forum structures (CPF) can be very successful if community leaders, business leaders, traditional leaders, the civil society and other non-governmental organisations all work together.

The harsh reality of the past 48-hours is that many people will be left jobless, and that many others have suffered massive losses which will be either impossible or extremely difficult to recover from, further negatively influence an already unstable and fragile economy,” said SAPU national spokesperson Lesiba Thobakgale.

He said the union welcome the deployment of the army.

Political Bureau

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