Cele vows: We'll root out Cape Flats criminals from 'inside fridges, under the bed, in the kitchen, at the beach'
15 May 2018
Police Minister Bheki Cele on Tuesday "declared war" on criminals across the Cape Flats, announcing that extra officers would be deployed for the next 90 days to "squeeze" any bad elements.
He was addressing Mitchells Plain residents as he launched "Operation Thunder", which would see 269 more police force members spread across Cape Town to achieve "stabilisation and normalisation".
"We are here to declare war on criminality. Cape Town is a tourist city, but we are not tourists. We are here to work," he said.
'Life will be better'
"Don’t think we are here to swim or to look at the mountain… We promise and commit to you that, by the time we move out, life will be better."
He said officers would root out criminals from "inside fridges, under the bed, in the kitchen, at the beach and on the streets".
The launch of the operation followed recent visits to different areas afflicted by crime and gangsterism.
"We realised we had to do something extra," explained Cele.
The officers would focus on hunting down those who had outstanding warrants of arrest and on protecting commuters hit by taxi violence.
Cele said roadblocks would also increase and motorists could expect them, whether it was 14:00 or 02:00.
'Bheki Cele and the boys are here'
Turning to the officers standing in rows in front of him, he told them not to die with a gun in their hand.
"Don’t be trigger happy, but when they challenge you… criminals here are daring and want to take you [on] toe-to-toe. If any criminal wants this space, please squeeze them and squeeze them hard."
Someone in the crowd shouted that officers should put criminals in body bags.
Chuckling, Cele said he was not sure about that.
He called on residents to share information to expose big crime bosses.
"We are not here [looking] for servants. We are here for lords."
Officers would not knock, but kick down doors, if they were sure a criminal was being harboured, he warned.
Residents were urged to spread the word that "Bheki Cele and the boys are here".
A criminal was not a stranger, but someone’s son or husband, said Cele.
"Don’t tell us you don’t know them. It is better if you ask them to join us, because it won’t be nice when we fetch them at your houses."
Anyone found to be protecting a criminal would find themselves taken in by police at the same time, and "given a free meal and room".
'We have a genocide, Sir'
Cele’s day started at the crack of dawn, when he took a train from Khayelitsha so he could speak with commuters.
One of the things he was asked was to save Cape Flats children from being shot or targeted by criminals.
"They want [the] Americans [gang] to stay in America and for the Hard Livings [gang] to stay in their hard lives," said Cele to laughter.
Commuters also asked him to encourage local and provincial government to increase lighting in dangerous places and to cut back bushes in open fields where criminals could hide.
When Cele arrived in Mitchells Plain, residents stood up to address him on their challenges.
These included living in fear, losing faith in the police, and feeling helpless as they witnessed criminals hiding their drugs in fields.
A pastor told Cele, "We have a genocide, Sir", as he explained how children and adults were being gunned down.
Cele promised he would return to the area for a "proper engagement" with residents.