SA lockdown: Bheki Cele accused of having 'lackadaisical attitude' about neighbourhood watches

Police Minister Bheki Cele. Photo: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Police Minister Bheki Cele. Photo: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 17, 2020


Pretoria – Civil rights group AfriForum on Friday criticised Police Minister Bheki Cele’s stance on the resumption of local safety structures like neighbourhood watches and community policing forums during South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown. 

AfriForum said it was “very concerned about the minister’s lackadaisical attitude” towards community safety structures, which the organisation contended made an enormous contribution to community safety.  

“AfriForum’s petition to allow neighbourhood, farm and plot watches to keep their communities safe has already been signed by more than 15 000 people. It seems that the minister accepts that the ban on alcohol presents the solution to the curbing of crime. It isn’t a sensible, sustainable or proactive solution to combat crime successfully, whereas this is the case with local safety structures,” said AfriForum’s head of community safety, Ian Cameron. 

“Neighbourhood, farm and plot watches have never hesitated to support the police and are essential support functions in the successful curbing of crime in communities. Yet the police minister turns his back on these structures and therefore on communities and local police members who rely on these structures.” 

Cameron said AfriForum would provide the necessary support to communities during the lockdown, within the framework of the law. 

He said the organisation had already launched various proactive projects including an extensive dissemination of hand sanitisers to law-enforcement authorities.

On Thursday, Cele told reporters that he was not convinced community patrollers should get back on the streets during the national lockdown, now entering an extended period.

The minister acknowledged he had received numerous requests from neighbourhood watch committees that wanted to augment the work of the South African Police Service in fighting crime. 

Some South Africans have been calling for community patrollers to be allowed to work in a bid to curb crime and the numerous burglaries at schools that have been taking place during the lockdown. 

“When the soldiers and the police do things wrong, you know where to go. I don’t think you know where to go when neighbourhood watch does things wrong [or what their accountability structure is]. That is the problem,” said Cele. 

“People like soldiers, police and the metro police have a history... they are vetted and known. Neighbourhood watch, I don’t think they are vetted. I don’t think you have their history to tell who they are and where they come from and all that.” 

Cele said he he was not averse to further discussion on the matter, “but there are these shortcomings that are existing at the present moment”. 

He said he was also ready to engage with various community policing forums (CPFs). 

“The CPFs are doing a good job most of the times, but at times they come across as a problem when they come into politics instead of getting on issues on the ground. So we have received the problem of politics around the CPFs but we have no problem engaging with their national structure,” he said. 

South Africa is going through a stringent national lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown is accompanied by a string of regulations that limit the movement of citizens, who are expected to stay at home unless they are shopping for food, seeking medical help or supplies, banking, buying petrol, collecting social grants, or performing essential services.   

African News Agency (ANA)

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