Whenever JP Smith is looking for a scapegoat he looks to me, says Bheki Cele
Cape Town - As police struggle to contain spiralling crime in the province, Police minister Bheki Cele took pot shots at DA leaders Helen Zille and JP Smith.
Speaking at a crime imbizo on Saturday, Cele said: “Njalo nje uJP Smith maye sutha usuthela kimina, angazi uphuza obuphi utshwala” – which roughly translates to “Whenever JP Smith is looking for a scapegoat, he looks to me. I don’t know what alcohol he drinks.”
Extortion rackets have been running rampant in the CBD and several townships, and a war of words has broken out between Cele and the City’s Smith over a dedicated anti-extortion task team.
A shooting in Gugulethu this week, where eight people were killed, was also said to be connected to organised extortion syndicates.
Cele hosted the imbizo at the Langa Sports Complex to engage with residents on issues of crime and policing concerns.
Residents rose to voice their complaints around the ineffectiveness of policing at the Langa Police Station in addressing gender-based violence, lack of support for neighbourhood watches, failure to take cases from rape victims, and the increasing trend of gangs harassing citizens for protection money.
Residents in the area said they were being made to pay between R10 to R50 per house depending on the size of household.
Local business owner Nombulelo Msizi said: “My door has been knocked on and I’m asked if I don’t want protection for a fee and I’ve refused, but my fear is the next time it won’t be a request.”
Local leaders and residents in Khayelitsha have raised the alarm on the number of protection syndicates that have mushroomed in the area.
Small business owners as well as ordinary citizens are being held to ransom.
On Saturday, Cele said there were still no arrests on the Gugulethu matter, but a plan to deal with extortions in the Western Cape has been drafted and would be funded by national, provincial and local government.
However, Cele did not mince his words when criticising Smith, who earlier in the week called out the minister for the delay in implementing the promise to set up a special task team to deal with gangsters targeting business owners for protection fees.
Describing a meeting he had with Smith, Cele said they had agreed on operations and if there were any problems, Smith was to call him to thrash things out.
“We walked out of there, and we walked down to Long Street and agreed that this is how we would work. We agreed. Now, last week, he spoke about what he wanted. He has a sickness of not wanting to listen and not do things correctly. The guy is just sick with not wanting to do things (correctly) on behalf of the people,” said Cele.
“We come here, agree on things, we begin to put those things in order. He doesn’t pick up the phone and say how far you have gone with the things we have agreed. He just sees journalists and climbs on top of me.
“I have a plan here. People are dying in Cape Town in (great) numbers, and we need to work on that.”
But Smith has hit out at Cele and said he did try to contact the minister through official channels.
“I did contact him; I sent him repeated messages which he did not have the decency to respond to. I also sent messages to the Deputy Minister (Cassel) Mathale who responded with a series of noted,” said Smith.
“Our officials also made attempts to get progress reports through the official channels, and we never heard anything. It was only last week when we were considering getting a legal process under way that we got a day’s notice of a meeting for all police stations where they were told to prioritise all extortion cases.
Cele said he saw Zille for the first time during a protest in Senekal where four people had been murdered but claimed he had never seen her protest or attend funerals in relation to killings in the Western Cape.
“I have worked here two years when she was a premier, and I have never been with her on the funerals. Even the funeral of young Stacey, who was six years, I had never heard of her or seen her. I don’t mind as she calls out Cele must go, but I’m calling her one thing – look at people as people, take off the colour of their face and look at them as human beings.”
He was referring to six-year-old Stacey-Lee Adams who was raped and killed by her mother’s boyfriend in 2018.
Zille dismissed Cele’s utterances: “I never said he must be fired. I was never interviewed. But if you ask me, I think yes, he must be fired. He can take as much exception as he wants I have freedom of movement, but I am not interested (in his utterances).”