WAR IN WORDS
‘Your days are numbered’ – Gauteng premier launches extraordinary attack on Police(?)/Justice(?) minister
Addressing a meeting of the South African National Civic Organisation in Johannesburg on Sunday, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi told an unnamed Cabinet minister, presumably Minister of Police Bheki Cele, who was not present, ‘Your days are numbered.’ Cele’s spokesperson denied the premier was referring to him.
Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s threats to Minister of Police Bheki Cele, made during a speech he delivered at the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) congress on Sunday, 12 November, were the latest in the controversy surrounding his unlawful budgeting, appointment and deployment of 6,000 Crime Prevention Wardens across Gauteng, before getting legal authorisation in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.
The Act allows the appointment of “peace officers”, with wide-ranging powers, but only after a formal request to and consultation between the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and the Minister of Police. The authorisation must then be published in the Government Gazette.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens set up unlawfully — experts
Lesufi told the Sanco conference, “We have trained these young people to be police wardens. You, as a police minister, are refusing to recognise them.”
Wagging his fingers and to loud applause from Sanco delegates, he said, “Your days are numbered.”
@siphodibakwaneyour days are numbered♬ original sound – Sipho Dibakwane
Lesufi continued: “We can’t, when young people are assisting us to fight crime you want to undermine them. You can’t when we have trained young people to be on the streets in our townships and protect our young people when they are studying at night in our schools, you don’t want to recognise them.
“We say to this minister, give us the power for these young people to have the power to get guns so that they protect our townships and chase away criminals in our own areas.
And we are committed to that.”
Lesufi appears to be referring to the fact that a request made by the Gauteng government to Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola on 23 June 2023 has still not been granted.
According to Lamola, the appointment of peace officers requires “a formal request and approval of the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, in consultation with the Minister of Police before permission can be granted and subsequently published in the Gazette.”
Lamola’s spokesperson says he is discussing the request with the Minister of Police.
The Minister of Police, in the meantime, when questioned in public, appears to be distancing himself from the project.
That may not be surprising. Policing experts have warned that this is unlikely to be a successful strategy for combating crime in Gauteng, where there are close to 500 murders a month.
They have particularly warned against arming Crime Prevention Wardens, which they argue would make wardens a target for violent criminals and gun theft. Investigations by Daily Maverick have also revealed poor and inadequate training of the wardens and a lack of proper screening in their recruitment.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng Crime Prevention Warden says Lesufi ‘misinformed’
Daily Maverick approached the spokesperson for the Minister of Police, Lirandzu Themba, who asked “Are you referring to the clip circulating? Which minister is he (Premier Lesufi) referring to, as there are over 30 ministers in Cabinet.”
When it was suggested in reply that it was clearly the minister of police, her response was: “No, to the minister of police, it is not. Hence he’s asking which one out of the 30 ministers is being referred to.”
The only other minister it might refer to is the minister of justice. His spokesperson was not willing to comment.
The premier’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said, “The premier attended the congress as the chair of the ANC. Please direct your questions to the Gauteng ANC office.”
“Whatever the premier articulates in his capacity as the chair of the ANC is representative of the posture of the organisation and they are better placed to answer the question. There is a separation between government and the party as the media likes to point out.”
Daily Maverick requested comment from the Gauteng ANC, which hadn’t responded at the time of writing.
Lesufi clearly wants his amaPanyaza. However, a premier does not have the legal power to remove a national minister, who is appointed by the President, so Lesufi’s threat is a hollow one in law. It might, however, point to a campaign by the ANC in Gauteng to remove Cele, a sign of further factional infighting, which leaves criminals on the streets and not in jail. DM