Parliament urged to address Bheki Cele’s police meddling and ‘threat to democracy’

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In an open letter to Parliament, Mary de Haas, a prominent KwaZulu-Natal Violence Monitor academic, has voiced grave concerns over South Africa’s “deteriorating democratic conditions”.

De Haas’s letter, which was sent to the Speaker and the secretaries of Police Portfolio Committee, highlights several critical issues that threaten South Africa’s democracy, primarily focusing on the unchecked power and influence of Police Minister, Bheki Cele.

IOL sent questions to Moloto Mothapo, the spokesperson for Parliament and Nocks Seabi, the chairperson on the portfolio committee for police. Both did not respond at the time of publishing.

In her letter, De Haas points out that the minister of police’s role should primarily involve matters of policy and oversight, as stipulated in Section 205 of the Constitution.

Operational matters, she argues, should be the responsibility of the national commissioner.

De Haas insists that Cele’s actions not only breach constitutional principles of political non-partisanship, but also violate the SAPS Act.

De Haas goes on to detail Cele’s alarming conduct, accusing him of facilitating and being responsible for the surge in violent crime while squandering taxpayers’ money on extravagant travel expenses and irregular expenditure.

IOL sent Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba a list of questions in an effort to give him a fair right to reply to the allegations.

In her response to IOL, Themba said: “If need be, Minister Cele will respond to the relevant bodies and Parliament, when called to do so”.

De Haas highlights Cele’s recent attendance at a political meeting with a significant police escort, signalling a growing threat to democracy as party politics appear to outweigh the safety and security of South Africans.

“With elections looming, Minister Cele’s actions pose a grave threat to democracy. His reported attendance at a Cape Flats ANC meeting with an escort of 6 Flying Squad vehicles, 3 POP vehicles, and 3 TRT minibuses is a dire warning of what is to come, with party politics trumping the safety and security of South Africans,” she said.

Moreover, De Haas raises concerns about increasing political interference in the SAPS Crime Intelligence Service (CIS).

She reveals that some CIS management members, acting on Cele’s behalf, lack security clearances from State Security.

She further alleges that these individuals have been involved in criminal activities, raising serious questions about their suitability for their positions.

Funding for informers is also reportedly dwindling, potentially compromising national security.

De Haas suggests that a major reshuffle of CIS management staff, including top-level appointments, is on the horizon to ensure politically-aligned personnel are in charge.

She even hints at allegations of funds disappearing and the acquisition of sophisticated interception equipment, echoing previous concerns about surveillance technology procurement.

The academic argues that since 2009, South Africa has witnessed increasing politicisation of the SAPS, with political appointees running the police nationally.

She accuses Cele of rewarding incompetence and political allegiance with promotions, at the expense of dedicated police officers.

Corruption and criminal activity have seeped into the police force, resulting in civil claims totalling R108 billion due to a lack of convictions and widespread abuse by police officers.

“Despite these troubling allegations and a tarnished record, Minister Cele continues to enjoy public support. Parliament must hold him accountable, and the President, who appointed Cele, must also answer for his failure to act decisively,” she said.

De Haas warns that South Africa is on the path to becoming a police state, with unchecked political interference in policing and the erosion of democratic principles. She implores Parliament to act swiftly to rectify these issues before the upcoming elections to ensure the safety of all citizens and the preservation of South Africa’s democracy.