Election violence will be dealt with harshly, warns Bheki Cele
In a radio interview this morning, the police minister also dismissed talk of friction between himself and police commissioner Khehla Sitole
Police minister Bheki Cele said that security cluster officials have contingency plans for violent protests ahead of and during the national elections, and those who cause havoc will be dealt with harshly.
Cele said police officers are ready to quell violent protest and will ensure that the upcoming poll is held under peaceful conditions.
The police minister was speaking during a current affairs show on Ukhozi FM on Monday morning.
Violent protests have taken place in areas ranging from Alexandra and Tshwane in Gauteng, to the eThekwini municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.
Three weeks ago angry mobs in Durban raided homes and businesses of foreign nationals and burnt trucks, complaining that local companies were employing foreign nationals and drivers at the expense of locals.
Political analysts say residents see this period as an opportunity to voice their grievances as politicians and parties are more likely to listen to their demands.
“We want to warn communities that while everyone has a right to peaceful protest, those who burn and destroy private and public property and prevent others from exercising their rights, including a right to vote, will be dealt with severely,” Cele said.
He said ministers and officials from the security cluster, including intelligence, home affairs and defence met last week to discuss the service delivery protests and contingency plans for ensuring that elections are peaceful.
He said hot spots have been identified and a team made up of officials from different departments and other state agencies would be working together with the electoral commission of SA to ensure that voting districts are secured and are fully operational throughout the country.
He said the contingency plan would be operational during the period leading up to the elections and would cover the aftermath of the polls, until after the presidential inauguration.
Cele dismissed a report that tensions between himself and police commissioner Khehla Sitole have reached fever pitch and the two are not on speaking terms.
A City Press report two weeks said the friction between the two escalated after Sitole suspended Lt-Gen Christine Mgwenya, the deputy national commissioner for human resources management. The report suggested that Mgwenya was close to Cele, having served as his chief of staff when he was national police commissioner between 2009 and 2011.
“I don’t know where is that report coming from because I have a cordial relationship with the police commissioner. Due to our respective roles, the two of us have to meet every two weeks and we do so. During these meetings, we discuss ways to tackle crime in the country. We get along very well and I don’t know from where the reporters invented the stories that we are at loggerheads,” Cele said.
He added that Sitole informed him before serving Mgwenya a notice to suspend her and even informed him when he had suspended her.
“I have had no problem with that.”
Cele said he felt vindicated after last Tuesday’s order of the North Gauteng High Court setting aside former president Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire him in 2012 when he was national police commissioner.
The ruling brought to an end a seven-year effort by Cele to clear his name after his dismissal in relation to procurement of accommodation for the SA Police Service.
“I feel that a huge weight has been taken away from my shoulders because I was vilified and accused of all sorts of things, including corruption.
“Now that the decision has been set aside, perhaps it is time that you guys, the media, go to those people who took the decision and ask them why they took it because clearly the court does not see the rationality of their decision.
“I am happy that many South Africans stood by my side throughout my ordeal. They supported me and they still support me now as I embark on this new journey to fight crime in this country,” Cele said.