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Police Minister Bheki Cele faces criticism for cops’ lack of action at Nkandla

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Tension ran high between Zuma supporters and police who blocked the road leading to the former president’s home. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Police Minister Bheki Cele is facing mounting criticism over the disobedience displayed at Nkandla where many supporters of former president Jacob Zuma gathered over the past few days, defying lockdown regulations.

POLICE Minister Bheki Cele is facing mounting criticism over the disobedience displayed at Nkandla where many supporters of former president Jacob Zuma gathered over the past few days, defying lockdown regulations.

Late last week, the police late last week issued a stern warning that anyone found organising or being part of gatherings would be fined, jailed or both.

No arrests have been made outside Zuma’s homestead where a large contingent of police officers have been deployed.

Police presence has also been beefed up in other parts of KwaZulu-Natal, where Zuma has a large support base.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure further enhanced the operational capacity in the province, in response to incidents in which people were seen to be undermining the state’s authority, including the flouting of the Disaster Management Act regulations.

He said that during the deployment, SAPS commanders and members on the ground were provided with “clear and concise” directives, that responses to all situations must be informed by proper analysis.

“To this end, every situation will be assessed and dealt with on its own merit,” he said.

Last Tuesday, Cele warned those who threatened to defy the lockdown regulations in the wake of the third wave of Covid-19 infections sweeping the country.

“We want to take this opportunity to remind the nation that reckless calls for mass contravention of the Disaster Management Act have no space in our society.

“Police and security forces will continue to play their part together with the community,” he said.

Cele said non-compliance would result in a fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both. Since March 2020, 465,098 people have been charged with contravening the Disaster Management Act.

“All those people will be charged and will have a criminal record. (A total of) 7,439 of them were arrested during alert level 4 on 16 June.

“The police will continue to monitor compliance through targeted operations which will be intensified in hot spot provinces,” he said.

Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Nkhensani Kubayi was among those who raised their concerns about the gathering over the weekend.

“I… (shudder) to think of the after effect of Nkandla gathering with the current variant. After the Pretoria March, court protest in Johannesburg and marches in Soweto we saw numbers surge to above 26 000 last night.”

However, after seeing images and visuals of the large crowds at Nkandla, many criticised Cele for the apparent lack of enforcing lockdown regulations:

Speaking to the media in Soweto where he and National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole attended the kick-off of the SAPS vaccination drive this morning, Cele defended the police’s handling of Nkandla protesters.

“I want to congratulate the police, the way they behaved. The problem is that information that people don’t have, we will have.

“There were about more than 100 people there that were armed and were mingling within the people that you saw at Nkandla.

“Now police knew that. Police had that information. They even tried to provoke the police into having their firearms used there.”

“There were many women and children there and the police had to take a step back,” Cele said.

“We had to take, and absorb the insults and complaints, but (as) South African police we’ve all learned from Marikana.”

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