Police Minister Bheki Cele hangs up his hat

Outgoing police minister Bheki Cele.

Outgoing police minister Bheki Cele.

Published Jun 9, 2024


Durban — Bheki Cele has been given his marching orders.

He will no longer wear the hat of police minister after he failed to make it onto the list of ANC members who will return to Parliament, scuppering his chances of retaining the portfolio.

Various organisations have welcomed his departure, which comes after years of calls from various quarters that he be dismissed as minister of police.

“It’s time to appoint someone who knows what they’re doing,” said AfriForum’s community safety spokesperson, Jacques Broodryk.

The civil society organisation has repeatedly called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to sack Cele, saying he lacked the skills and temperament for the job and had failed to curb crime.

“Cele’s political influence on the South African Police Service over the last couple of years has drastically decreased the police’s crime-fighting capabilities, the morale among police officers, and also the general management of the entire service has gone extremely backward along with crime stats,” said Broodryk.

The DA previously also ran a campaign calling for Cele’s dismissal, and 33 000 people signed their petition demanding he be fired. At the time, DA leader John Steenhuisen described Cele as a “danger to society” and said his failings had cost the lives, dignity and security of countless South Africans.

Cele was previously the MEC for transport, safety and security in KZN.

He went on to become the national police commissioner and then the minister of police. He was previously linked to the Fifa 2010 accommodation tender scandal, in which he allegedly signed off a tender worth R47 million.

He was also implicated in a R1.6 billion police leasing scandal involving businessman Roux Shabangu. At the time, former public protector Thuli Madonsela found Cele’s conduct had been “improper and unlawful”.

In the past, the now outgoing police minister made headlines when he verbally attacked anti-crime activist Ian Cameron at a community meeting in Gugulethu. This, after Cameron raised various issues of concern. Instead of addressing the issues, Cele flew into a rage and screamed “shut up” and “get out” at Cameron.

Violence monitor Mary de Haas said Cele was unfit to hold the position.

De Haas said that during his tenure Cele had militarised the police, wrongfully interfered in operational matters and had been implicated in a number of crimes.

“He created a whole lot of new top posts and generals and brigadiers where none had existed.

“So he basically changed the structure of policing and that costs us about a billion rand a year because even if those people are briefly in those positions, they retire on huge pensions,” said de Haas.

“It’s costing the taxpayers a fortune at the expense of proper boots-on-the-ground policing. That management is top heavy and it’s completely unnecessary.”

Speaking to the media this week about his departure, Cele said everything that started must end and that he would be going home to spend time with his family.

He said he was grateful to the people of South Africa, and that he had “never dreamed that I would be a minister”.

Once dubbed the “Teflon Man” because none of the allegations against him would stick, Cele appears set to exit public service with his stomach in and chest out.

Sunday Tribune