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Time to rein in Cele

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He seems to be doing a good job, if crime statistics and announcements by Cele himself are anything to go by

South Africa - Cape Town - 8 April 2019 - National Minister of Police Bheki Cele speaks to the community of Hout Bay regarding the recent taxi violence. Photo: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

POLICE Minister Bheki Cele needs to be reined in by President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ANC bosses at Luthuli House.

Since he took over last year, Cele has shown signs of blurring the lines between party and state, of using his position to fight political battles and of interfering in the operational matters of the SAPS, thus undermining National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole.

Weekend media reports that Cele is gunning for Sitole for merely suspending one of his five deputies, Lieutenant-General Christine Mgwenya, should be understood in this context. Sitole reportedly suspended Mgwenya for allegedly abusing her powers to get her son a learner’s licence at a police academy in Benoni, east of Joburg.

Mgwenya is apparently Cele’s former chief of staff when he was commissioner between 2009 and 2011.

Former president Jacob Zuma fired Cele after then public protector Thuli Madonsela found him guilty of maladministration for irregularly awarding a tender.

It’s an open secret that four of the post-apartheid national police commissioners, including Cele, never finished their terms of office after being implicated in wrongdoing. To date, Sitole remains the only commissioner who has yet to be implicated in wrongdoing.

And he seems to be doing a good job, if crime statistics and announcements by Cele himself are anything to go by.

But Cele has largely been a spoiler. Commenting two weeks ago on the arrest of mayors for allegedly killing former ANC Youth League secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, independent political analyst Dr Xolani Dube labelled Cele a “toxic figure” in KwaZulu-Natal politics. This was after police arrested Newcastle mayor Ntuthuko Mahlaba, only for the murder charges against him to be dropped after he spent eight days in jail.

Dube said Cele had abused his position to fight political battles by targeting those who did not support Ramaphosa’s successful bid for the ANC presidency in 2017.

He called on Ramaphosa to remove Cele from the police ministry should the ANC win the May 8 polls.

All these developments are an indication that Ramaphosa and the ANC should stop Cele in his tracks before he causes more damage to the SAPS and erodes public trust in the police.