Johannesburg - The solution to violent crime besieging South Africa is to bring back Bheki Cele as the country’s national police commissioner.
This was the resounding message of Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, residents on Tuesday as the “Bring back Bheki Cele” campaign gained impetus.
“Let the general (Cele) come back! Bheki! Bheki! Bheki!” rang the chant from the crowd of about 1 000 residents attending an anti-crime campaign at the local civic centre.
Cele himself appeared to oblige to the calls, and took the message a step further by seemingly launching the campaign himself – literally and figuratively.
“I want to come back and create structures that will fight crime in this area,” Cele said.
Aware of how his statement may be interpreted, he warned against his message being misconstrued. “If someone says something (different), it’s not what I said.”
There have been calls by many angry South Africans in the wake of the murder of Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa to reinstate Cele as South Africa’s top cop.
The campaign to bring him back as the country’s top cop could be a slap in the face for national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega, who has come under severe criticism for her perceived ineptitude in tackling crime. Phiyega has been painted as too soft and not in touch with her officers on the beat.
Cele, who is the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, received a hero’s welcome in Vosloorus, where he shared the stage with his counterpart in Trade and Industry, Mzwandile Masina, and Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele, among others.
In a fiery speech that roused the crowd, Cele appealed for leadership in the fight against crime.
“In life, I just don’t want to be hopeless and helpless. I don’t want to give an answer that says I don’t know what to do. We are having our communities under siege where the answer is ‘I don’t know what to do’. Somebody, somewhere must rise and say ‘enough is enough’.”
He implored communities to take back their streets and “squeeze the spaces” for criminals.
“Criminals must be told they don’t have a place to stay… We are going to organise and close and squeeze the space for criminals.”
To rapturous applause, Cele added: “These criminals are arrogant, they don’t have respect for human life… These criminals must fear the communities. Don’t let the cats fear the mice. The mice must fear the cats. The criminals are the mice and the communities are the cats.”
Praising the ANC Youth League for its “operation wanya tsotsi” (loosely translated as “criminals will sh** themselves”), Cele said the campaign was born out of anger with the spiralling crime.
“I know they (the youth) are angry. If there’s somebody who doesn’t understand their anger, that person must have a liquid brain. Any person with a solid brain must understand their anger and (the calls) that enough is enough.”
Cele warned that the anger must be channelled purposefully and decisively to root out crime. “We must rise like serpents.”
Cele is credited with the gradual reduction of crime and establishing the Tactical Response Team, the feared amaberete known for their no-nonsense, tough approach against crime. Some advocating for his reinstatement have suggested that Cele had, during his tenure, brought a sense of pride to the police service.
However, his tenure was by no means trouble-free, as there was an increase in reports of police brutality during his reign.
President Jacob Zuma fired Cele after he authorised the SAPS to splurge R500 000 million on leasing a building from controversial businessman Roux Shabangu. This was after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s probe into the lease scandal found him unfit to hold office.