South Africa

Op-Ed: Bheki Cele – the proof of the pudding is in the eating

By Chris De Kock 27 February 2018

Breaking from his usual stance not to comment on senior appointments in the SAPS, analyst CHRIS DE KOCK sets out why he supports the appointment of new police minister, Bheki Cele.

This crime analyst, different to some of his colleagues, was always very hesitant to make any remarks regarding senior appointments in SAPS and at ministerial level. The reason for this was that human beings are just that, and it is difficult to know what is hidden in the dark of the past or what could happen if that individual is placed in certain circumstances. Many of my colleagues had quite a bit of egg on their faces in the past six years when senior appointments they hailed failed in a relative short time after they were appointed.

On the other hand, I will fail in my duty as an analyst if I have certain facts which I don’t share with the people of South Africa. I also have a right as a citizen of this beautiful but crime-riddled country to have an opinion – as recently as four months ago I was hijacked at midday with two 9mm weapons against my head.

When the new Cabinet was announced just after 22:00 on 26 February 2018 it came with many positive and negative remarks of analysts, commentators and politicians. On the announcement of the president that Bheki Cele will be the minister of police there were also many remarks, which can be summarized as follows:

  • He was a good/excellent national commissioner.
  • How can a person who was fired as a national commissioner become minister of that department?
  • He militarised the SAPS. (“The cowboy who told the police to defend themselves when suspects shoot at them.”)

If the media should ask this analyst who should be the minister of police, the answer would be: “If I was the President, the appointment of Bheki Cele would be my easiest choice for the following reasons.”

Exceptionally strong leadership

While this analyst was the Head of the Crime Information Analysis Centre at SAPS he served under four permanent national commissioners and two acting national commissioners (for periods of less than a year). Of all of these Bheki Cele was the strongest leader. He really led from the front. When he walked through a crime-riddled area, police members would follow, proudly, with confidence, and the public would literally embrace him. South Africans are so sick and tired of crime and corruption that they can only develop confidence in the police and a feeling of safety through strong leadership. It is actually a pity that Cele won’t be the national commissioner, but the minister. His strong leadership and his commitment that everybody, but especially women, can walk through the streets of now dangerous areas, in the middle of the night, may bring him in conflict with the police management.

Experience of policing

He was the national commissioner for two-and-a-half years and was also the MEC for Safety in KwaZulu-Natal for an extensive period. Clearly this provides him with quite a bit of knowledge to do his work as a minister of police. It should also be emphasised that in the two-and-a-half years that he was the national commissioner the safety around World Cup 2010 was also handled very effectively.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

Cele’s influence on crime reduction was already tested during the period when he was the national commissioner. Comparitive increases/decreases in the more policeable crime categories over specific periods of policing since he retired in April 2013 were published on various occasions, most recently in Daily Maverick of 25 October 2017.

Table 1 is a repeat of that table since no new crime statistics have been released since October 2017.

Table 1. A comparison between the average annual increases/decreases for different periods of policing

Table 1 speaks for itself. The Cele period was characterised by significant average annual decreases in nine more policeable crimes (in green). In the Selebi period there were eight significant average annual decreases. The Phiyega period and the first full year after the Phiyega period, 2016/2017, only had respectively three and two decreases.

In the Cele period there were only significant increases in business robbery and theft out of a motor vehicle. The police could not provide sufficient protection to the thousands of small to medium size, mostly informal, business enterprises which dotted South Africa. At the same time a new modus operandi of blocking the central locking systems of motor vehicles, when they are parked in public parking areas, led to an escalation of thefts out of motor vehicles.

So there is proof of the pudding in the eating. Something happened during the Cele period which proves that policing in this period had significant reduction results. DM

Dr Chris De Kock is an independent analyst of crime, violence and crowd behaviour.

Photo: New Police Minister Bheki Cele (REUTERS)

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