We’ll kick your door in- Bheki Cele
Police will go house to house and kick down doors in their pursuit of criminals, if necessary, a hawkish Bheki Cele said in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
“Criminals must have restless and sleepless nights,” the no-nonsense police minister said at the NU2 Stadium in Motherwell at the launch of the national SAPS Safer Festival Season Operation in Nelson Mandela Bay.
He also advised crooks to “find honest jobs”, saying: “Tell these criminals that they must go fix their CVs and start applying for jobs because their business of stealing money is finished.”
Wearing a long black coat and a black hat complete with red feather – which a gust of wind rudely removed at one point – Cele cut a formidable figure as he said police would do all in their power to protect the innocent.
He vowed to hunt down lawbreakers where they lived.
“We did a walkabout at the taxi rank and a number of women told us that there are a group of thugs that come to their homes and steal their belongings, including their pension money – we can’t allow that situation.
“[Police] will have to develop a list of the criminals we want – and then you go knocking house to house.
“If the criminal doesn’t open, kick the door [in]!
“There is no house where we will not enter,” Cele said to delighted cheers from the crowd, which included teenagers and the elderly.
He also had a stern warning for members of the police who broke the law.
“I am announcing to all police and all other South African law-enforcement services, you must obey and respect the law and not get involved in criminal activities.
“If you want to be a criminal, we will put you together with criminals at St Albans [Prison] and you can be nice there,” he thundered.
There would be zero tolerance of police members who turned away women and child victims of violence and abuse – he would personally deal with any officer found guilty of this, Cele warned.
However, he also stressed that police needed to be vigilant and well armed as criminals used real weapons.
“[Police] must go toe-to-toe with criminals!” Cele shouted.
“No police officer of mine must fall down.
“If any criminal engages a police officer and you have to pick someone that has fallen, let it not be the police member.
“They must be sharp like serpents and kind like doves.”
Multidisciplinary roadblocks – which start on Friday – and special boxes to report criminals were among some of the other seasonal plans.
“All police stations will have a box where anyone can report a criminal that they know of,” the police minister said.
While he had not yet discussed rolling out the report boxes to the Eastern Cape with provincial commissioner Liziwe Ntshinga, police would soon be introducing the system, he said.
It would allow community members to report suspected criminals anonymously at a police station closest to them, by writing down the suspects’ details and the criminal activity they were allegedly involved in.
“If you know your neighbour, boyfriend or son is a criminal, all you need to do is simply write the name and address on a paper and put it in the box.”
Cele said members of the SA National Defence Force, the SA Revenue Service and home affairs would be invited to participate in the roadblocks.
“There will be no city, town or highway where there will be no roadblocks,” he said.
“If you don’t pay your taxes or you are in [the country] without paperwork, we will find you there.”
Discussing recent successes, he said the number of cash-intransit heists had decreased since April and attributed this to the dedication of police.
“Since June 4, we have arrested 128 cash-in-transit criminals,” Cele said.
“And to prove that we are on top of them, we no longer wait for them to commit the crime – we arrest them in their home while they are planning the heist.”
There was a lighter moment when Cele called on the police present to stand to attention, only evoking a response after he yelled at them a third time.
On the reporting of abuse, he said: “I don’t want to fight with you [officers] – I love you, but I will not tolerate anyone telling women to go and negotiate [with their abuser].
“You are not negotiators, you are an arrestor. If you think you are a negotiator you must come to me and I will take you to South Sudan and you can negotiate there.”
Cele invited all citizens to take part in the fight against crime.
“Even if it is not today or tomorrow, life will be better and criminals will be pushed back.
“This is a commitment we make to the people of South Africa, that criminals won’t find the space to terrorise.
“We can only effectively do this if we work together.”
He said all police departments were geared up for the festive season and called on the public to be those extra eyes when neighbours are away.